Archer continues his inexorable journey to adulthood, now weighing in at a hefty 18kg (39lb) which according to online charts and tables is just a little over the average for the breed at this point of his development. He is well into teething. every day he’s missing another needle-like milk tooth, unfortunately, his breath smells like rotten fish and he is leaving a trail of blood on anything that goes near his mouth. Hopefully, he’ll get through this fairly quickly, it’s typically 4 weeks by all accounts. He’s got some new chew toys to hopefully see him through.
Every day is a training day for Archer, practise and repetition is key. He is doing amazingly well considering his age having mastered sit, down, stand, wait, heel and paw all work in the living/class room. The real trick though is to make the commands work in the wild when out in the field, ideally at distance, that is still a work in progress. We are working on stop of late, which should halt him in his tracks, but he’s struggling with the concept of not moving.
The most impressive and fastest training I’ve seen him absorb was actually done by the trainer at the puppy club in 2 minutes and solved a problem we were having with putting his food down. He would typically have his nose in the bowl before it hit the ground. We had trained him using wait but it wasn’t hugely successful, dependent on how hungry he was. The answer was to put the bowl down and as he goes for it lift it back off the ground. If you do that for about a minute you can see the point the penny drops. You then give him a command “yours” in our case to allow him to eat the food. He now will sit and wait until he’s told he can eat, which makes feeding him a significantly less dangerous activity. We are now extending it for all food put down for him which is taking a little longer.
The most important command we’ve been working on is his emergency recall “touch” command after the horse paddock issue a few weeks ago. I make a point on every walk of recalling him when he’s distracted. i.e. far away, out of sight, approaching dogs on leashes, middle of playing. We’ve also been working on general recall so “come” will generally do the job probably 80% of the time to normal treats. So far “touch” has been 98% effective, mainly due to it always giving him the top quality treats.
We’ve also been playing a lot of hiding and seeking, Archer will often walk ahead, so if he gets too far I make a point of calling his name and then hiding. This has turned into a fun game for both of us. More importantly, it forces him to keep an eye on me, because I can (and do) run off at any moment. So he’ll typically now stay within a 10m range and look over his shoulder a couple of times a minute just to make sure I’m still there. Sometimes I just disappear without calling his name, just to shit him up. It’s good to remind him of his dependence on me once in a while.
Our off leash walking is really coming along, he spends about 3/4 of the walk now au naturel. Interestingly he behaves far better off the leash than on it (even the 10m one). What’s nice is we can now walk away from other dogs/owners after a quick hello most of the time. Unless they have also had a pup who wants to play in which case it’s time to get the tea and sandwiches out.
Toilet training is almost there helped by the fact he can now hold his bladder longer than I can. If the back door is open he’ll take himself out. If it’s closed he’ll come and stare at me and dart his eyes to the back door. He doesn’t use the pads in the house anymore and we are slowly phasing them out. The only issue is that he increasingly doesn’t use the latrine in the garden, favouring to ruin my grass, something I’ll need to start correcting. It does seem that standard treats are not enough of a reward to give up urination freedom.
Archer loves to play with other dogs and on the whole, he knows how to change his play style to suit his play mate. Most adult dogs are not interested in puppy nonsense and they’ll generally try to ignore him. The ball obsessed dogs I’m fairly sure operate on a different plane of existence, one where for all practical purposes Archer is invisible. But he is difficult to ignore when he’s stuck to you like glue, bouncing up and down like a demented energiser bunny.
It comes as no surprise that from time to time the adults will have to flatly tell him off, usually with a growly reminder of “look what big teeth I have”. Sometimes Archer will get the message, but more often than not he’ll need a second reminder of “look what big paws I have”, they’ll typically land a paw on his head to hammer (literally) the point home. If that doesn’t work, well there’s no choice, they’ll lean in close to his ear, teeth bared and snap “all the better to eat you pup”. That always does the trick, he goes white as a ghost (probably), message received the bounce drains right out of him.
When he does manage to goad a pup (or adolescent dog) into playing it can take a number of forms:
- running/chase – the smaller and more agile dogs just run him around in circles playing chase until he collapses in a defeated heap. It doesn’t take long, his gangly frame takes a lot of effort to throw around a field.
- herding – those breeds that are bred to herd, never miss an opportunity to put him through his paces. Unlike running they’ll chase him forcing him to do what they want. It doesn’t help that his bright white coat makes him look a little like a lamb.
- wrestling– is rare, unless of course, the other dog is a retriever (pure or cross) and which point they’ll just go straight to ground, usually until one of them yelps out or they run out of energy.
Archer’s favourite type of play is wrestling. He’s had a few bouts now and they look brutal with flashes of teeth and claw and often blood spatters on his beautiful white coat. Try and stop him or throw in the towel to early and he’ll sulk for the rest of the walk.
He’s has a couple of pink scratches on his black nose at this point, battle scars, you should see the other guy, who’s also wagging his tail with his tongue lolling out, eager to continue “playing”. As a retriever owner, you will find yourself inevitably inducted into the dark underworld of puppy fight club and needless to say you can’t talk about it. But I’ll break the silence just this once to recall Archer’s favourite “play” session this week.
Lady’s and gentlemen, in the left-hand corner, hailing from just down the road and weighing in at 15kg, the lawn destroyer, Archer! In the right-hand corner, hailing from just round the corner and weighing in at 11kg (give or take), the dark nemesis! A lovely lab cross (not sure with what a pinscher of some sort judging by the pointy ears), The lab is giving up a clear 2″ inches in height to Archer, so on paper, it’s Archers’s to win.
This will be a 5 round bout, of 60 seconds a round, no holds barred and the scoring of the owners will decide the outcome. My score card:
Round 1 went to the lab, he was quicker out of the starting blocks and he’s caught Archer off guard, pinning him to the ground for the last 20 seconds of the round. Lot’s of growling flashing of teeth and madly wagging tails.
Round 2 also went to the lab after Archer finally managed to get back to his feet, promptly runs sideways into a tree knocking himself back to the ground. The agile lab is back on him in a flash, working the ears. It’s all looking very one-sided, I’m thinking I might have to step in but he’s making it pretty clear he wants to fight on.
Round 3 and Archer slowly starts to turn the tide, using his weight advantage he rolls the lab using his long levers, forcing it to the ground, he follows up with some solid neck work. Like a shark, his eyes roll back into his head as he literally stamps his authority. Tails on both dogs by this point are a blur of frenetic wagging.
Round 4 and the lab knows it’s in a fight, it manages to get to its feet and run 5 yards before Archer slams into him sending him back to the ground. Archer has the panting lab just where he wants him, but it’s obvious they are both starting to feel the pace, their lunges slower laboured and more considered.
Round 5 – into the last round. Archer is flagging badly and the agile lab is starting to drag himself out from his grip. They have both made it back on their feet, it’s gone to paws, like two tired gladiators the pups are leaning against each other panting, their tongues hanging loosely from foaming mouths. I agree with the other owner that they’ve had enough and decide to call it a draw on the round and the match.
It takes another minute to fully pull them apart and calm them down. They would have been happy to keep going until total exhaustion, but then who’s going to carry them home? It’s not the first time he’s played with this particular lab, last time he lost badly having to tap out after some overzealous bites, so it was good to see him stepping up his game and more importantly having a fantastic time.
It does seem vicious at face value, but on closer scrutiny just like real wrestling the bites and swipes are all pulled, the growling excitement not anger. Either pup can stop at any time simply be yelping, so they both push it to the limit, cautious however not to over do their fun and bring the play session to a premature end. Not surprisingly with such roughhousing, there are a few bumps and scrapes, but in spite of these, I can guarantee you Archer is eager for a re-match.
We ended up taking Archer back to the vet’s this week, the final straw being a mild case of pink eye or conjunctivitis if you want to get technical. It appears to be par for the course with retrievers, my parents and sisters dogs having similar infections from time to time. With all the bacteria breeding in his warm moist bloody gums, it comes as no surprise that he might get an infection.
The vet put some staining eye drops in Archer’s eye so he could eliminate any scratches to the cornea. Unfortunately, it left him looking like a zombie dog, with florescent green eyes and bright green snot coming out of his nose, the picture above really doesn’t do the eyes justice, outside in daylight it was quite unsettling and he got some very odd looks on our walk home.
In addition to picking up some new doses of Advocate to protect him from a scary list of parasitic critters, We asked the vet to give him the quick once over to put our paranoid minds to rest. After a bit of prodding and poking, which he tolerated with good grace the vet gave him the thumbs up and put our minds to rest that he was indeed a perfectly healthy pup.
Archer enjoys his visits to the vets, thanks to the puppy socialisation classes they ran he thinks it’s a fun place, which makes a stressful situation a lot easier for both him and us. It’ll be interesting to see how long that lasts especially when he goes in for the chop in a few more weeks.