It’s been a truly British spring with a good mixture of showers, that one week when it seems summer has arrived early and everyone gets super excited, followed by the inevitable and entirely predictable icy cold temperature reality check.
Not that it bothers Archer he is a dog for all seasons even when they occur on the same day. The only saving grace is I’ve finally managed to switch from wellies to walking boots as the local quagmire has returned to being a country park. It’s been a busy month for Archer, between meetups, training and getting into trouble.
To my eyes, he doesn’t seem to have grown much in the last month, at least not as noticeably as he had in previous months. He still looks a little skinny when compared to adult dogs, but I put this down to the hour and half of walking he gets every day come rain or shine. He is a solid unit of muscle and is now more than capable of pulling me off my feet if he gets a head of steam up. By total accident, I did discover that he simply will not walk to heel if he’s on my left side which for some reason I had been favouring. He will pull at the leash incessantly. Switch to the right and he’s no longer pulls. It is very odd and I’m not quite sure why one side works and the other doesn’t. I’m just glad I can walk him without him pulling my arms out of their sockets.
Most of this month’s growth seems to have gone into his coat, the feathers on his front legs are now quite impressive, although I’m at a loss to understand what benefit they provide. They remind me of the streamers kids had on the handlebars of their choppers bikes back in the day, completely pointless but undeniably cool (at least back then). Archer’s adult coat must also be growing in as he has odd tufts of hair that don’t seem to go anywhere particularly on his back, I’m sure it’ll all make more sense when it’s all grow in.
Next month Archer will be a year old and I’m going to have to pull out some side by side pictures just to contrast how far he’s come.
Golden retriever meet up
Highlight of the month has got to have been the inaugural meet up of the Kent Chapter of the Golden Retrievers GB which had a huge turn out of 30+ dogs at Capstone Park. There is nothing quite as joyous as seeing a field of Golden Retrievers frolicking in what turned out to be the best weather of the month. Archer had the time of his life, chasing and roughhousing with the other pups. Unfortunately, amongst the throng, he did keep trying to shame himself by singling out one particular bitch and ended up doing some time out on the leash to curb his enthusiasm.
Obviously, within a pack of 30, you are going to see a good spectrum of the breed but I have to say to within a dog they all had that legendary laid back temperament. Most startling in the group line up was the fact there was a clear bias towards lighter/cream coloured dogs over the darker more classical image of a golden retriever. It’s interesting as I’ve seen other counties meet up photos and I’m fairly sure they tend to favour the more golden coat. Beyond the striking colour difference, there was a surprising variance in size and stature, coat lengths etc. As I understand it there a field/working variants that tend to be smaller and shorter coats and show variants with bigger bones and longer coats and clearly everything in-between. I think it can only be a good thing to see such variety in a breed, especially one that has historically had its fair share of genetic-related issues.
Having seen other dog meetups at Capstone Park it’s fair to say a breed’s reputation proceeds them, be it the comical sight of a pack of Dachshunds, the crazy antics of a sea of Pugs, the mad energy of the Boxers right through to the intimidating sight of a pack of German Shephard’s. It seemed to me that everyone was eager to greet and play with the Golden Retrievers, of course, I’m completely prejudiced. The only slight hiccup was a poor family who was trying to make the most of the weather by having a picnic. Kids, balls, food and 30 golden retrievers fresh to the field, it was never going to end well. But having hidden the food, returned the balls and stopped the licking of the children, the group was ultimately let down by two of the pack deciding to rut on their blanket. Thankfully the parents saw the lighter side of it, especially when one of the kids asked what the naughty puppies were doing.
Swimming with Friends
If there’s anything better than a field of Golden Retrievers it’s got to be a seeing a Golden Retriever in its natural habitat, mud, reeds and water. Archer is never happier than when he’s wet, but up until now, he’s not had anyone to play with. Luckily, his regular walking buddy loves water even more than Archer and they had a fantastic time retrieving sticks from the River Medway on what again turned out to be a lovely day (so lucky). Needless to say with two Golden Retrievers shaking themselves dry I might as well have jumped in the Medway with them. Come the summer we’ll be visiting more often if only to keep him cool in the heat.
Back in Training
Archer is back in training for the Kennel Club Good Citizenship – Bronze Award with Ken the dog trainer. He’s in a small group of 7 other dogs who all started at the same time with roughly the same skill levels. It became readily apparent, even more so than the puppy classes Archer attended last year that the goal of the classes is NOT to train your dog for you but to train YOU to be able to train your dog. Looking after your dog is a big focus of the course so being able to check and maintain your dog’s health is invaluable and I suspect in the long run will reduce some expensive vet bills. I love the trainer’s no-nonsense approach he and his colleague’s experience shines through in every lesson.
The lessons have been a little tough on Archer. Starting with getting in the car, he associates every trip out with fun and games. He gets to the training hall and there are other puppies who also want to play and he’s literally chomping at the bit. After several minutes of tugging and pulling he starts to get the message, it’s not playtime much to his frustration. Worse he has to sit still and behave himself for 10 minutes or more at a time during the classes, whilst the intro/theory and summary are discussed. All the time the other pups are whining and desperate to play as well, after about 20 minutes of this, he’s pissed off, hot and we haven’t even started the practical exercises yet. Impulse control has never been his strength, but even in the few weeks we’ve been going, I can see he’s starting to get it. This is NOT playtime it’s work time.
To be fair to Archer when we actually get to the practical sections, he does really well. He is eager to please especially when there’s some of Ken’s cooked liver being offered up as a reward. Archer will often get pulled out by Ken to demonstrate the next stage, for example, last week it was walking through gates, starting with getting the dog to sit in front of the closed gate, opening it (the dog must stay) and then stepping towards, through and back the gate – all the time the dog must stay put. Archer has never done it before, but under Ken’s crystal clear direction he’s in no doubt of what he’s being asked to do and does it correctly first time. Of course, I have to do the same exercise, no pressure and needless to say it doesn’t quite go to plan, he moves he fidgets etc. Why? Because I’m not being as clear and precise in my commands, again it’s not the dog being trained here. This has happened several times now and I’m starting to think that bronze certificate had better have my name on it, not Archers.
The scariest moment this month was when Archer was led astray by an older Golden Retriever into the horse paddock where he proceeded to coat himself in fresh manure. If he had returned as his buddy had at that point it would have just been bad luck. Unfortunately, he then decided to walk up to one of the horses. He has done this once before and the horse just ignored him and Archer ignored the horse and in his own good time decided to heed my recall command.
On this occasion, however, the horse took flight and decided to run back to the rest of its herd. Well, Archer always likes a game of chase and took off in pursuit, which of course just startled the horse even more. By the time it reached the rest of its friends at a canter, it obviously startled them. Now Archer is chasing after the entire group thinking it’s a fantastic game. Thankfully a couple of horses realised he wasn’t attacking, and stopped their flight to stare him down at which point he decided that maybe he would come and find out what his incandescent owner was making so much noise about.
I can’t blame Archer, there was no malice and he’s an animal that’s going to follow his instinct. The fault was mine for not spotting the danger soon enough and stopping him from getting into the paddock. Needless to say, he doesn’t get to go anywhere near that side of the field now off the leash.
There’s a lot of positive press about the health benefits dogs can provide in terms of relaxing their owners and even claims of dog owners living longer lives. It’s at times like this that I really question those articles as I think I lost 5 years in just this incident alone.