It’s been a while since I’ve found the time to post an update on Archer’s progress but given he’s just coming up for 6 months old I’d thought I’d provide an insight into some of the fun he’s had in the last month. Autumn has finally arrived and we are both loving wading through the multi-coloured sea of leaves. We’ve done quite a few kilometres of walkies in October:
It’s already obvious that mud is going to be a nightmare come the winter especially given Archer’s whiter than white coat. A fact fellow dog walkers love to remind me.
Needless to say, he has doubled in size again in the last month and judging by the size of his paws he’s not done yet. He still looks a little lanky and his front legs and chest look out of proportion to his rear section. It’s most notable when he tries to sprint as it often looks like his rear legs are trying to overtake the heaver front legs.
He thankfully made it through teething in just over a week helped along by some rigorous sessions with his pull toys. It really was quite staggering the speed at which the adult set has grown in. He’s now sporting a full set of shiny white gnashers that he’s always happy to flash in my direction. Best of all his breath has returned to just being doggy rather than smelling of rotting fish.
His coat continues to undulate and weave down his back and for the most part, he still remains white rather than cream. That is of course when he isn’t just mud coloured. The only problem with the waves on his back is at a distance it looks like the vertebrae of his spine, giving the illusion of him being criminally malnourished (see photo above).
As a dog owner, one of the key things you are desperate to ensure is that your pup is socialised, that he/she interacts well with other dogs and humans. It’s drilled into you that it’s critically important in those early months to ensure your puppy gets as many diverse social experiences as possible.
At this point Archer is amazingly social, bordering on being over socialised. Yes it turns out your dog can be over socialised and by that I mean he is not always correctly reading the body language of his victim, sorry, his new friend. His impulse to be friendly overrides good manners, which manifests itself primarily in how he interacts with adult dogs.
Adult dogs run a spectrum from timid to aggressive (just like humans really) with the majority luckily being somewhere in the middle. Dogs in the middle of the spectrum will typically tolerate Archer’s social faux paws. Even when he sneaks up on them and sticks his cold wet nose right where it’s not wanted.
Those at either end of the spectrum are where Archer is currently struggling. Timid dogs (if left to his own devices) he will continuously pester and try to goad them into some kind of play. It obviously never works, but that’s not going to stop him from trying it seems. Not surprisingly smaller dogs tend to be timider and as he grows bigger it is becoming more of a problem – one that will need to be kept in check.
But the real issue is aggressive dogs, there are many reasons why a dog may be aggressive and sadly in many instances, it’s good owners trying to correct the damage previous owners have inflicted. I have a lot of respect for the people who take on such a challenge and a lot of sympathy for the poor dog when a puppy decides to throw itself at them.
The issue isn’t that there are aggressive dogs, it’s the fact that Archer can’t yet read their body language, he’ll blunder into their personal space and having been given a clear warning, usually a snappy growl, he still continues to edge in towards them. Almost as if he’s trying to fix the situation, which he really can’t. Again left to his own devices he will leave a threatened dog no recourse but to snap and I have no doubt ultimately really bite him.
Clearly, neither of these situations are great. Archer is learning but at the extremes of the spectrum, he’s still struggling to realise it’s better just to walk away.
As discussed dog temperaments cover a wide spectrum and where a dog lies on that spectrum seems to be a mixture of nature (their breed) and nurture (their upbringing). That said, there is one breed that appears to universally hate Archer with a passion, Border Collies!
Now I love Border Collies they are beautiful, intelligent and the most obedient of all the breeds and we’d come very close to getting one ourselves. But for some reason, they take an instant dislike to Archer. It’s reached the point now where he’ll shove his tail between his legs, do a 180 and skulk off in the other direction if he sees one.
The old adage about there being no bad dogs just bad owners is very true. I was recalling a particularly aggressive Border Collie attack to a fellow dog walker and she described to a tee the offender and its owner. A sweet frail old lady, her dog had no collar and she had no lead (that’s a clue in of itself) and clearly lacked the strength to pull her dog off of another animal.
It wasn’t just Archer her dog had mauled and the poor thing had quite a reputation evidently. So the words of the old dear saying “She’d never done that before I don’t know what’s got into her” where either senility, denial or a flat out lie.
That incident aside, Border Collies are always very instantly stern with him. I have two theory’s on the subject:
- their body language on seeing him immediately telegraphs caution. They tend to stop in mid-stride and start moving very slowly, with that piercing focus only a Border Collie can give. With other dogs that is usually an invitation to approach slowly with many Border Collies though it’s more an indication to stop, lay down and prepare to be checked over. Failure to correctly interpret this signal is punishable by a strict telling off. It seems to me given their own natural intelligence they have a low tolerance for puppies who don’t learn this basic lesson quickly.
- they think he’s a sheep! Bare with me, his white coat and general size at the moment could be mistaken for a sheep on a foggy day by a dog with cataracts. I believe his very visage triggers something instinctual in the oldest of Border Collies and they seem to go on a crusade to unmask this sheep in wolfs clothing.
I’ve no doubt given Archer’s prodigious socialisation skills he’ll figure it out, he is so eager to please everyone dog/human he meets. Growing out of being a puppy will help and if all else fails I could try camouflaging him so he doesn’t look quite as much like a little lamb.
My sister visited in October and brought her 18-month-old chocolate lab, Luna. We’ve been waiting for this get together to see how the two retrievers pups would get on. There seems to be a common theme amongst chocolate labs they are all totally mad, the general consensus from owners I’ve come across is they seem to be wired slightly different to their lighter and darker cousins. Something that I can definitely attest to.
By the end of the week, I was simply referring to her as the land shark and I had taken to feeding her at a distance greater than an arm’s length, having almost lost a finger or two. It seems that Luna has been raised as a lap dog, a job she took deadly seriously and was not up for debate if you chose to sit down. That, of course, was assuming she wasn’t doing her other job of acting like a scarf around your neck. So much energy in comparison to Archer.
The pups got on like a house on fire. We had expected the wrestling but I think we both thought after an initial bout it would all settle down. A week later they were still locked in good-spirited ear, tail and leg chewing at every opportunity with no clear winner. Archers bigger size was nullified by Luna’s greater experience and speed. If we had sold pay to view tickets no one would have complained about not getting their money’s worth that’s for sure.
Being focused on the dogs getting on, none of us had given a thought for how Luna would handle the two cats. Let’s just say it was a good thing that October has been so mild outside, poor things.
Our primary reason for picking a Golden Retriever is we wanted a dog that was “bombproof”. No, that doesn’t mean you can blow him up when he’s being a sod. It means he’s solid, dependable not prone to being startled or scared, sociable and generally laid back. Archer ticks all these boxes even as a 6-month puppy.
His biggest test was our annual Guy Fawkes firework party. The house is packed with kids and adults and the highlight of the evening is 30 minutes of the loudest fireworks that can be commercially bought in the UK. We had considered putting Archer to bed, but in hindsight, it would have been a terrible mistake.
At it’s busiest there were people packed in 2 small rooms and overspilling into the kitchen. Archer loved it he greeted each new arrival, without jumping up, just his broad grin and wagging tail. At one point I spotted him winding his way around making an effort to ensure he had seen everyone. He was gentle with the kids, even when they were jumping on him and pulling his ears. Most amazingly he didn’t snaffle a single cocktail sausage off a child’s plate even though they were tantalisingly at eye level. It really was amazing to watch, and as the evening went on and he got tired (he’s still a pup) he snoozed under the table, with all the chaos going on around him.
As for the fireworks. He had been out in the garden with me for a good half an hour before the guests turned up as all around us other peoples fireworks where going off and he honestly didn’t seem to care. When our fireworks went off he just hung out inside with a couple of the kids and parents who didn’t like the loud bangs.
He made it through his first Guy Fawkes in a spectacular style not putting a single paw wrong. We have been very lucky with pets as both of our cats are hugely sociable as well, they tend to turn up halfway through the evening after the kids have calmed down a bit, But they too love to press the fur, so the sight of both cats and the dog circulating was amazing.
The temperament of Golden Retrievers is legendary, having covered what Archer is like both outside and inside when socialising I think it’s worth describing what he’s like behind closed doors. Being only 6 months he still loves to sleep. He WILL sleep for 18 hours minimum a day, in fact, try and stop him getting 18 hours and he will literally just pass out on you.
When he’s out, he’s literally gone the loudest noise won’t stir him or even pushing and prodding him. It’s become a regular past time to re-pose him while he sleeps. But don’t be under any illusion he’s not alert. Say the right trigger word or rustle a treat packet and he’s on his feet heading in the direction before he’s even fully come to. If you think the Alexa keyword is amazing on an Amazon Echo you should see what an aeon of evolution can produce.
Archer is not a lap dog, he’s not a huge fan of cuddles either. He prefers to sleep alone. In the instances I’ve scooched up to him he invariably gets up goes and sleeps on the other side of the room. It might just be I smell having given up showering, what’s the point when you have a puppy? He’s not allowed on the bed, which is totally not a problem as he won’t get on it. He’ll get everything but his back legs on the bed, not to sneak on up but to just get some attention that he needs something.
Wen told him to go to bed the other night, took off his collar and turned the landing light on for him. He took himself upstairs (still a funny sight) alone and went to bed. The gate on the bedroom was open but he just went to sleep, that’s how serious this pup treats his Z’s.
I hate the term “old soul” and the implication, but at 6 months it truly is the best description I can give of Archer. His mannerism’s when not out in the field being a full on puppy is more of those of a 14-year-old dog than a young whelp.
I’m still hopeful that this year Christmas cards to friends and family will feature Archer, Itchy and Scratchy all curled up together. As you would expect after so many months they are relaxed to the point they’ll stand right next to each other, although there is still a personal space boundary.
For example Itchy every morning will sit in the kitchen doorway preventing Archer from getting out into the garden to relieve himself. Archer won’t push past him and Itchy knows exactly what he’s doing, the standoff only ends when I push Itchy aside, reminding him it’s his own breakfast he’s delaying. Kitty mind games for sure.
They still don’t play together, Archer still hasn’t figured out that snarling, bouncing up and down with tail wagging is not how cats play. But he can walk up to them (when they allow it) and sniff them. They will even bond together if I’m late putting their food down (or the clocks go back and they are out of whack for a week), I’ll get both cats and the dog now turning up as a united delegation. Mind you cats always get fed first, those are the rules I didn’t make them.
Scratchy keeps a very careful eye on Archer, particularly in the garden. At this point, I don’t need to see Archer to know if he’s up to mischief I just need to see Scratchy. If he sees Archer doing something dubious he basically stares at me and then at the dog and back at me with a “are you seeing this s****” look. He’s a right proper telltale.
We continue to train Archer on the basics. He’s currently between puppy schools having finished a 6-week program at the end of September. He will be enrolled in a new school shortly, one that ideally follows the Kennel Club’s Good Citizen Scheme.which will provide a clear progression and set of goals. Going back to the point we want him to be “bombproof” he’s off to a great start but it’s going to require work for us and him.
We have of course continued to re-enforce the skills he’s already learned and Wen continues to take a worrying amount of pleasure in putting treats all over his person and getting him to wait for the “yours” command. The poor pup you should see his little face if dogs could sweat it would be pouring off of him.
Which reminds me of a mistake I made while feeding him. Before we put his food bowl on the floor he is required to sit, we put the food down, he must then wait for the “yours” command before he launches himself at the bowl.
One day I was having a conversation with Wen while putting his food down, he was sat ready and I accidentally said “yours” in the conversation with Wen. I saw him just launch at the bowl, not realising what I had said and stopped and told him off.
Wen pointed out I had just said: “yours” that’s why he was going. Realising my mistake I apologised to Archer and told him “Yours”, he just looked at me, I pointed at the bowl, gestured towards it, repeated “Yours”. Still, no go, “It’s yours, go on”, nope! In the end, it took me a good 3 minutes to convince him that he was allowed the food. I have honestly never known a dog like him.