We are now 3/4 of the way through Archer’s first year. He’s still very much a puppy, I’ll grant you he’s a big puppy at 33kg. As I discovered to my cost when he and a 20kg Vizsla hit my knee full-on at over 10 mph. For the nerds, that’s 625 joules of energy enough to light a 100 watt light bulb for 6 seconds, which is half the time I needed to have a light bulb moment myself; never ever take your eyes off a frolicking pup. My top tip after several such encounters is to try and keep your knees bent (just like a parachute jump) it’ll give you something to do while your life flashes before your eyes.
Archer had a visit back to the vet, partly for a checkup and partly to restock the various anti-parasite drugs that prevent him from becoming host to a whole range of beastly little friends. He was a little nervous but on the whole, he associates the vets with fun, thanks to the puppy classes he attended there. It also helped that the vet knew him on sight as we’d bumped into her several times out walking her own pup. After some liberal poking and prodding, he passed his physical with flying colours.
The conversation finally came around to what to do about his love spuds. As I posted previously I’m at a loss on the subject of neutering. It seems to be a hopeless balancing act between various risk factors including prostate and testicular cancer, joint problems and emergent unsocial behavioural traits. The vet essentially confirmed the situation and outlined from her perspective the lowest risk strategies:
- Plan A – and the ideal outcome would be to try and get him to mental maturity somewhere around 3 years and then get him done. The risk of testicular cancer then begins to outweigh the other concerns by that point. The challenge, of course, is living with an intact maturing dog when his true instincts being to manifest.
- Plan B – if he becomes too uncontrollable is to try to get him to at least skeletal maturity somewhere around 18 months. Even that may prove difficult with a fully fuelled hormone pumped pup.
The vet said she made it to a year with her lab before the quality of life (for her and the dog) had reached a point where there was little recourse but to snip the problem in the bud(s). So we’ll play it by ear and see how far we can get, I’m under no illusions, it’s not going to be easy and I’m already starting to see the early signs of what’s to come. The longer I can keep my patience, the better the outlook for Archer, we shall see.
Away with the Furries
If I was in any doubt of what a challenge Archer’s trip into adulthood will be it has been cemented in the last few weeks as I’ve watched him slip into another world. His growing interest in smells of all kind has become more of an all-consuming addiction. We no longer go for walks together. I might be standing right next to him but I might as well be a universe away. During these times it’s next to impossible to get his attention, he’s so totally lost in this world of smells. It’s even beginning to overtake his once primary passion for play. I’ve seen him seemingly chasing down another dog, only to see him swerve off at the last moment to stand and smell a tuft of grass for five minutes utterly transfixed.
He currently spends at least half of any walk lost in this peculiar state. Attempts to pull him from its grip rarely work and in the odd case it does, it’ll last a minute at best. I’ve put high-quality treats in his mouth and he’s spat them on the floor and shot off to inspect a particularly interesting tree stump.
Of course, there is one smell above all others that he is hunting for and when he finds its source he is capable of turning into an absolute monster. There is nothing more embarrassing than trying to pull him away from a female he’s taken an interest in. He’ll dance around the other dog and its owner keeping me on the other side of them unable to stop him. Needless to say in such moments there are no commands or treats that I can offer to entice him away. For him it’s a game for me it’s a nightmare. Worse still he hasn’t even figured out what he needs to do yet, it’s just the smell he’s interested in.
There will come a day not too long away when he’ll run for miles following that smell and I fear before then he’ll, unfortunately, find himself on a long leash. It seems like a step backwards, but in reality, it’s just another phase of his development. Luckily there are walks we can go on where his chances of coming into contact with other dogs are relatively low. So we’ll probably just mix it up until his recall returns in a few years.
He can finally swim, yet another innate instinct he didn’t need to be taught. We found a great spot on a local walk where they launch boats down a nice long ramp and the SS Archer made his first tentative voyage. There is nothing more impressive than a grinning golden retriever creating a bow wave as he chases a stick into the water.
There are however a couple of issues with him swimming:
- it’s not a successful swim unless he manages to shake the majority of the water on to me and will make an all-out effort to get to within a few feet before going off like a landmine.
- freezing water acts like nitro and he will spend the next ten minutes hurtling around like a mad hare. Forget “Redbull gives you wings” in Archer’s case it’s a dip in the river.
With each swimming lesson, he gets more confident and visibly stronger. The only concern now is that’ll he’ll swim off across the river or worst still start chasing ducks, which I suspect would be somewhat frowned on by the park wardens.
Back in training
Archer is back into formal training. Last week was the introductory class and let’s just say it was a bit of shock to the system for both of us. It was far removed from the casual puppy classes he had previously attended, instead, an hour of fast-paced commands left both of us knackered. Archer didn’t help himself, having half-killed himself before the class had even started, he was so excited, so many dogs and he wanted to meet them all, pulling at the leash like a bucking bronco.
All the new pups were taken into a small side room for evaluation, there were six of us in total with a good mixture of pups with age ranges from 6 months out to a year. One owner was told to put their dogs toy away, this was “a place for work, not fun”, one of the trainers said. That was a bit of a rude awakening.
We each gave some background on our four-legged friends and the challenges we were facing. It was at least encouraging to both hear and see that everyone was dealing with the same problems, i.e. walking on the leash and the elusive recall. Archer had remembered a good amount of the basics. Although he does have a tendency to get a bit bored after he’s done the same thing a couple of times. Note helped by the constant distraction of the other pups, which is a good thing. All his commands work perfectly in the quiet of the front room, but they need to be able to work everywhere.
Archer managed to get through his treats within the first 30 minutes of the class (I must remember to bring more next time) luckily the trainers had plenty more and Archer loves a cocktail sausage. We had a break at the halfway mark so the dogs could attend to any calls of nature. Needless to say, Archer took the opportunity to dump an almighty poop in the middle of a pitch-black car park. I was just thankful he didn’t deposit it in the room as one poor owner had to contend with.
By the time we got home, I had an overtired, frustrated, stroppy pup who wanted nothing to do with me. He couldn’t understand why he wasn’t allowed to just play like normal. Next week we are in the main hall with the majority of the dogs, that’s going to be an interesting experience. Hopefully, Archer will have the good sense to at least pace himself next time.