At 7 months Archer is a very healthy 28kg of muscle, skin, hair and slobber. He looks better proportioned in the last month as the hindquarters have finally started to catch up with his bulky chest. He continues to be very lean, his considerable bulk being mostly muscle. He still has big folds of spare skin particularly around his neck but I’m starting to suspect that’s more to do with defence than the extra growing room. Other pups love to get a mouthful of his neck (or an ear) and I’ve seen him pulled around by it on more than one occasion, without much of a care.
His coat remains snow white with a hint of gold on his ears. When wet (see photo above) his coat looks majestic especially his mane. His two-layered coat serves him well, a lot of dirt can simply be brushed out when dry.
Where once he would sleep under the coffee table now he can’t even get his head between its legs. Which of course doesn’t stop him having a go. Overall he’s about the same size as most adult Labradors he comes across, which means the latitude given to him as a puppy is starting to wane. Where once his bounding would be greeted by excited “Oh he’s a puppy” now it’s more than often likely to be greeted by screams and rapid attempts to protect loved ones. It’s another lesson Archer is struggling to come to terms with given that from his perspective nothing has changed.
He still sleeps a LOT, a typical day is broken down into 1.5hr-2hr walkies, 2 hours of general chewing/light play, which means he still spends 18-20 hours a day dozing or sleeping. He typically sleeps from 8-9pm through to 6am in the morning demonstrating far better bladder control than I can.
Archer’s body clock is as accurate as any atomic timekeeping source. 6am every morning he climbs onto the bed, not fully he’s not allowed on the bed, just the front legs and bulk of his 28kg torso applied skilfully to Wen’s legs until she pokes me and tells me he’s awake. I don’t know why he doesn’t wake me up directly, maybe he’s tried and I’ve just ignored him. At this point, it’s a bleary-eyed stagger (for the both of us) to the back door to let him out, feed the cats and give him his breakfast. He’ll then go back to sleep and if I’m lucky I’ll join him.
9am is the next key milestone on the pup’s busy daily schedule. He’ll start to get restless if it gets to 9:30 and I haven’t made a move then he’ll sit in front of me, turn his head to look out the window and then look back at me. To be clear most of Archer’s non-verbal communication involves looking at me and then looking at what he wants and back at me. It’s a work in progress at the moment, basically looking right means walkies that’s easy, however looking left could mean toilet, food, water or the cat’s in my way again.
Midday is dinner (he’s still on 3 meals – possibly not for much longer), this is usually about when we get back from walkies so he’ll woof his food down and then get into his afternoon siesta until about 4-5pm depending on how tough a morning he had. It’s then playtime for an hour, before his tea around 6pm.
Wen and I typically don’t eat until gone 7pm. When we do we’ll give him a Kong or chew stick while we eat as his treat for the day. By 8pm you can probably imagine he’s totally worn out, poor thing.
Mud Glorious Mud
We covered another 100km+ walkies in November and amazingly the weather (on the whole) continues to be mild with only a couple of nights of frost. Unfortunately, the side effect of this has been rain and many of Archers’ favourite walks have been reduced to quagmires of slippery deep mud. Not that it bothers him in the slightest, in fact, the muddier it gets the happier he seems to be.
The final straw was a walk around St Mary island a paved route devoid of mud, 45 minutes in and he’s spotless, bored but spotless. I almost made it off the island but on passing the dog pen for once it was full of dogs playing and I’m not that cruel. It also didn’t look that muddy so I let him off much to his delight, bounding around and playing with the other dogs the way only a 7-month pup can do.
Now I was aware that there was a hole that the dogs liked to dig in, you can probably see where this is going quicker than I did. The last time I saw this hole it was about a foot deep and it was dry, by the end of November it was now about 2ft deep, a foot of which was liquid mud. Worst still one of the other dogs had dropped his ball down it, he kept returning to try and dig it out and Archer is always so very willing to help. You can see the results in one of the photos above, on the long walk of shame back to the car.
It was at that point I gave up fighting it and accepted that trying to keep a white pup clean during Winter is my Kobayashi Maru test. I decided to accept defeat with good grace and a hose.
My first attempt to deal with mud was to bath him, it took 30 minutes of him splashing about and by the end, both myself and the bathroom was soaked and caked in mud. It took another 30 minutes to clean that up, which is clearly not a tenable situation. After the next walk, I decided it was going to have to be the hose in the garden, so holding him by his collar I proceeded to spray icy water on to the worst of the mud. In the blink of an eye, he reared up twisted around and proceeded to simultaneously crush my hand and garrote himself. We mutually agreed that didn’t work.
In the end, I built a pen out of spare metal fencing and dragged him into it, The next 5 minutes were to be fair harrowing, I’m not going to sugar coat it. I might as well have been spraying him with acid from his reaction Keep in mind this is the same pup that will happily wade through water up to his ears just for fun. I was finding it hard to reconcile that with the shaking mess staring up at me. I finally let him out (clean) and he shook the worst and bounded at the towel I was holding. Twenty seconds later he was a happy go lucky pup again.
We’ve been through this process a few times now. Archer’s still not a fan but he at least now accepts it and will now walk into the pen with a “get it over” attitude.
The puppy honeymoon period is well and truly over and we are now getting into details that weren’t covered in the handbook. As discussed in previous posts Archer love’s to socialise, he’s never happier than when he finds a playmate. Unfortunately, somewhere in all the close quarters play he appears to have picked up the Canine Oral Papillomas virus or to give it, it’s more common name puppy warts. Yes, it turns out that’s a thing, it’s common in puppies and they appear as warty cauliflower appendages. Luckily he has only a few small polyps on the inside of his cheek at this point, hopefully, it won’t spread so we’ll be keeping an eye on it and keeping him away from too much fun.
The general advice is to let him grow out of it unless they get infected or prevent him from eating (not likely). Evidently, we can look forward to them just dropping off at some undetermined point in the future, lovely.
Nemesis (Part 2)
As covered in a previous post Border collies have proven to be Archer’s nemesis when out in the field. But he has made some good progress in the last month and is starting to understand what’s required to pass a border check (no Brexit pun intended). In fact, he again came across the collie that attacked him on one walk and realising who it was (just in time) he proceeded to give him a good 50ft leeway. It’s the first time I’ve seen him adapt his engagement strategy from the default bound in and hope for the best.
His other nemesis at least if you are to believe the old adage about cats and dogs should be our cats Itchy and Scratchy. But having seen him from a pup they’ve had as much input on his upbringing as myself and Wen and he’s been schooled in good feline etiquette. Although he’ll still push his luck, it usually only involves a paw waved at him these days for him to get the message. You can see in the photo above they are more than happy to share prime seating spots.
Archer definitely favours his own breed when it comes to playing. The style of play between Retrievers (and to a lesser extent all the Gundogs) is boisterously unique and mainly involves wrestling with little running around and it can appear to be very violent. It’s also usually silent, other than the odd growl. I’ve only see Boxers (the breed) engage in similar play.
Other breeds tend to engage in various different styles of play, my generalised observations by class:
- Pastrol – you can see the instinct instantly. They chase, herd, bark, nip and dominate. Having got Archer on the ground they don’t press the attack. Instead, they’ll let him back up, he’ll wander around a bit and then they’ll chase him back down. The objective of the play always seems very much about control. Archer doesn’t care play is play.
- Hounds – needless to say, if it’s a Whippets/Greyhound it’s about speed in fact usually straight out drag racing. It’s not Archers forte and any hound worth its salt can make him look like he’s standing still. It’s funny to watch though. They typically size him up in a few passes and carry on about their business.
- Toy – practically all of the toy breeds are not interested in playing with Archer even on his best behaviour it’s clear he has little control of flailing limbs and they are far from stupid to engage with such an oaf.
- Terrier – there’s nothing funnier than a Jack Russell terrier giving him a good run for his money (literally), usually involving a lot of bouncing, barking and running. The funny thing is the sheer energy level of some of these little guys (god help him if it’s a Staffy) is insane and they’ll literally run Archer into the ground, before dancing off to find another play date.
- Utility / Working – it’s a shame, other than Boxers Archer hasn’t had much opportunity to play with breeds from these categories. He comes across a lot of huskies/malamutes but their owners tend to keep them on a tight leash.
Of course, you’ll always come an exception to the rule usually when a particular breed has been brought up around another breed. It’s always fun to come across the exceptions.
Golden retrievers are known for their love of water, Archer literally has evolutionary mutations for swimming (double coat, webbed feet). So I ensure that a couple of times a week (tides allowing) that he gets an opportunity to get his feet wet. The trick at the moment is to ensure a muddy walk ends with a body of water so he can clean himself off (otherwise it’s the hose).
He still hasn’t quite got to the point of swimming, but he loves to paddle just as long as his feet are still on terra firma. My attempts to push the process along a bit have not gone so well, having got him to fall off the wooden ramp (see pond picture above), he steadfastly clung to the ramp with his front paws like a drowning man. Embarrassing not only because the water was only 2ft deep (if that) but because his whining attracted a number of good samaritan’s who were willing to lend a hand to save him. I had to wave them off pointing out that it was, in fact, a swimming lesson, no matter what Archer’s vocalisations might have been suggesting to the contrary.
In the end, I had to admit defeat, having pried his front claws off the ramp so he was left standing in the water he steadfastly refused to acknowledge that he wasn’t about to drown. So I plucked him out, he shook himself off and then proceeded to give me a proper bollocking, barking and jumping up as if to say you b******. That was a first, it’s usually me telling him off.