AnimalsDog Days

Archer – Week 5

12th August 2018 — 2




We’ve been on several walks now and Archer is not surprisingly loving them. He loves being constantly fussed over by every passerby. He invites it, pulling at the leash to meet each and every new friend. Most people (80%) will take the time to run through the “ohhh he’s so cute” routine, usually asking his age and pointing out how fluffy he is, just in case I hadn’t noticed (my black t-shirt covered). He laps it up.

I do however worry about the odd person who doesn’t interact with him in some way, not even a smile. I’m not talking about runners or otherwise occupied people or the small number of people who are obviously afraid of dogs, you can spot them a mile off, their body language gives it away and I make a point of putting him on a very short leash. I’m talking about the very small number who upon seeing a puppy making a bee line for them, show absolutely no interest. It seems unnatural to me, and I find myself thinking Archer is a natural Voight Kampff test, and worryingly not all of these people are passing it.

After the attention, it’s the smells he loves the most, the little nooks and crannies that have obviously been turned into doggy bulletin boards. He reads each one avidly decoding the secret messages left by his kin. Occasionally he’ll just stop, head up, nose twitching he’s definitely having a completely different experience to me on these dewy morning walks.

He had been pushing his luck when greeting other dogs in the park for the last week. Clearly not showing respect and tending to bounce around a little too over excited. That was until a lovely German Shepherd finally annoyed by his over zealousness decided she had enough and gave him what for, pinning him to the ground and giving him a close up look at her very impressive set of teeth.

He got the message and it stuck, since then he’s approached all dogs (big or small) with a little bit more respect Getting down low and reducing his bouncing as much as any excited pup possibly can. It’s funny to try and see him get lower than a terrier, especially as he gets bigger.

devourer of worldS

At home things have not been so great. He loves to chew things, all things. If it fits in his mouth he’ll chew it and given half a chance swallow it. The biggest problem with his chewing is it’s left him with an upset stomach for the last week. He couldn’t make puppy class, for fear of leaving a stream of brown stinking liquid across the vet reception. It’s hugely frustrating that he doesn’t seem to connect his predicament at the back end with what’s going in at the front end.

The lowest point was 3am on Thursday I’ve awoken to a godawful stench I’ve got up and gingerly tip toed to the light switch to discover a chocolate milkshake. Luckily he had hit the puppy pad and so in my bleary eye state I’ve started to clean it up. I tie it up in a bag and take it downstairs. On my return I’m hit again by the smell, only to realise he’s done a second equally large pool of poop, again on the remaining pad (good boy). I then realise in horror that’s he stepped in this one and walked it around the room. Quarter of an hour later and another bag of liquid poop, I head downstairs to lose the bag. On my final return to the room, I find Archer on my bed, on my bed with uncleaned paws. I think that’s when I lost the will to live.

The next day I woke up in a fowl mood, too little sleep and the smell of doggy poop still in my nostrils, worse Archer also woke up on the wrong side of the bed and he was being extra arrogant too boot. We spent the morning huffing and puffing at each other. I finally went for a run to clear my head and get some alone time, to get my shit (no pun intended) together.

He continues to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable at all times, it seems like a battle of will’s most of the time. In many instances the only way to win is to distract him with treats, but it’s a hollow victory to have to cheat.

Back to the vet

By Saturday he’s dropping dark (although thankfully solid) black poops, which can be a danger sign of an upper intestine/stomach bleed. He’s not got any other symptoms, in fact he’s his usual arrogant self. But we resign ourselves with a trip to the vet, if only to put our minds to rest. Waiting in the vet reception (the same one he plays in weekly) he’s loving meeting all the dogs and people going past.

A gorgeous border collie sits down next to us, 2 years old and a professional working dog the owner tells us, in fact on his way up to Yorkshire tomorrow for two weeks worth of competition trials with the rest of his pack. I can’t recall seeing a dog that was so focused, just sitting there looking around the room you could see it analysing everything, it interacted with all the other dogs and people.

When Archer decided to do his puppy play nonsense the border collie growled and bared it’s teeth, Archer was being very slow on the up take, continuing to annoy her, until she had no choice but to make her annoyance clear. As with the German Shepherd earlier in the week he was solidly put in his place. It is a lesson he needs to learn, not every dog wants to play, especially a working dog that has little tolerance for the bullshit of a puppy.

The vet finally calls us in and gave Archer the once over, everything was normal he wasn’t presenting any  issues, he maybe a little bit gassy. The vet took his temperature for the first time, catching him off guard, but it too was normal (i’m not sure Archer agreed it was normal). The general consensus was whatever it was it looks like he was practically over it, obviously keep an eye on him and he should be fine.

The vet had also reminded us to sort out his Pet Insurance, Archer was covered a few more days under the original policy thrown in when we picked him up. We had been umming and ahhing about it, trying to make that financial vs risk judgement call. The situation was rapidly resolved when the vet, pointed out a foreign body removal in a big dog could be problematic and they’d just done one that ran to £3k. Imagine a couple of those in the first two years, my sisters lab had already suffered similar self inflicted problems, luckily avoiding a worse case scenario.

Building Bridges

If there’s one area that has made progress, beyond archers ability to grow millimetres with every sleep, it’s his relationship with the cats (photo proof above). There is now mutual respect, he understands not to bounce at them and they’ve twigged if they don’t run he won’t chase them. In fact it’s gone the other way the cats will lay in the hall because they know he won’t pass. If he still puts his nose where it’s not wanted he gets a hiss, with the constant threat of a double tap to the head. I’m starting to think the animal approach to dealing with puppies seems to be far more effective than my treats and kind words.

It’s been the toughest week so far, between his dodgy tummy and Archer’s increasing bloody mindlessness it’s not been a huge bundle of fun this week. The only silver lining is I might still be on target for a Xmas card with cats and dogs sleeping together, fingers crossed.

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – Week 4

5th August 2018 — 0



It’s been an exciting week for Archer between puppy club and his first walk, he’s continued to grow at a prodigious rate. An update on a few of the key areas:

  • he’s finally learnt to climb the stairs on his own, just in time because he’s getting a bit to heavy to be lugging around. We are still working on coming down them, which involves me animating him like a marionette, but he’ll get there.
  • toilet training is going well. He can now almost get through the entire night, and the number of accidents has dramatically reduced. His clear preference is to get outside now. On the odd occasion if I’m busy/distracted and forget to take him, he’ll now come over to me and make it clear he wants out.
  • his relationship with the cats continues. They will often now pass each other without incident, it’s a bit cagey but they are getting there. Archer has had to be told to “back off” a couple of times by the cats with a double jab to the face, it’s a language he understands all to clearly. Wen discovered that the cats love for catnip overrides any fear they still have of the dog. Wen will spray the catnip on the carpet and both cats will get down of their perches and push past the dog to get to it. That’s been hugely helpful because calm (high) cats are far more tolerant, and because they are relaxed Archer realises it isn’t play time and is calm as well. Hopefully we’ll close the last few inches in the next few weeks. I have a target to send out Xmas cards with both cats and Archer sleeping together, Archer with a Santa hat and the cats with elf hats, I can dream and there’s always photoshop.
  • training hasn’t made much progress this week, we’re still bedding in the basics (come, sit, down, paw). The biggest priority is to nail “come” in all situations. To that end i’ve got some “higher commodity” treats in the form of cocktail sausages, which I’ll only dish out if “Come Now” is successful.
  • his food bowl has been moved out of his crate into the kitchen, it’s simpler and less prone to me spilling on the carpet. The kitchen is also where his remaining accidents where occurring, I’m hoping by putting his food there he’ll get the message.
  • being able to sleep through the night means we have a much more solid routine and are generally in a better mood on both sides.
  • he had his 2nd bath this weekend. I can’t say he was happy, but he accepted it with good grace and he really enjoys being dried off and the general pampering Wen gives him afterwards. Just before he goes and rolls in the dirt again. He was a very dirty dog judging by the colour of the bath water.
  • he’s been far less belligerent this week. He’s had a lot more opportunity to socialise than in previous weeks, both at puppy club and more visitors. Coupled with a bit more freedom in the garden, as I blocked the last of the areas he would get into the most mischief. He seems to be more relaxed than last week.
  • puppy maintenance, we had to cut his claws again (only 2 weeks since last time) and I finally had enough of the pissy stained wick of hair hanging of his old boy, and got the scissors out. Shudder, the things that aren’t discussed about puppy ownership, oy vey.
Puppy Club

On the Monday he had his first of four visits to the vet’s for puppy club where he has an opportunity to socialise with pups of his own age and the nurse briefs us on aspects of owning a puppy we might not have considered. There were meant to be 8 pups but only 4 made it (it is after all summer holiday season). The pups that made it beside us, included:

  • another golden retriever female called Lucy. 4 weeks older than Archer and it showed, she was a inch taller and a few kg’s on him
  • a pomeranian, a lovely bright eyed ball of fluff about the size of two hands
  • a tiny terrier cross, which could literally sit in one hand

The nurse did the introductions, and we got into the main event letting them off the leash. First was Lucy and the pomeranian, not surprisingly the pom was overwhelmed by the attention of her boisterous new friend and made her feelings clear, bringing their first brief encounter to a curt end. Next Lucy had a run at the tiny terrier, Lucy tried to be a little less scary, sensing she needed to be more gentle, but dialling it right down from 11 was still to full on for this pups first outing.

Then it was Archers turn, I was in two minds whether he would go the way of the first two pups, or if he would be up to the challenge. I needn’t of worried 30 seconds later he’s on his back there’s flashes of teeth and claws and he’s loving it. Lucy is beasting him, and he’s having the time of his life, tail going part in submission and out of sheer excitement. The other two pup owners look on in horror at the violence of the scene, the nurse reassuring them it might look like something from Fight Club but it’s actually quite normal for this breed (and Lab’s).

They are in danger of going at it all night so the nurse get’s us to break it up and runs through the finer details of Coprophagia a word I’d never come across, which is surprising given I’d eaten enough in my career. Archer I’m afraid  is most definitely a coprophagia connoisseur, favouring cat then bird. Luckily he’s not a huge fan of K9 either his or the foxes. He should grow out of, in the interim I’m doing my best to reduce his access.

Next it’s the sit demo. First up the terrier who does a sterling job, although to be fair his bottom is only 1cm from the ground so it’s not exactly a challenge. Lucy after a bit of coaxing mangers her sit, followed by the pom who was straight in there. Then it’s Archers turn, he’s been doing sit for weeks, we’ve got this one in the bag. Sit Archer, nothing. Out with the treat, Sit! He’s too interested in the other dogs especially Lucy. Sit! I’m trying to get his attention and it isn’t happening, I take him further away and stand in his line of sight so he can’t see the other dogs, Sit! The nurse offers up a new treat. Sit boy! Nothing. In the end I finally managed to get his attention by shoving the treat in his mouth and taking it out again, I seize the opportunity and bellow SIT! Finally, he puts his arse down, thanks mate!

The nurse weighs each of the pups during the evening as well to make sure they are hitting their targets (for each of the breeds). Archer has put on the best part of a kilogram since his measurement 3 days earlier, proof that we’re not going mad and he really is growing millimetres during every sleep, and he still sleeps a lot!

The session ends in another all out royal rumble, this time the terrier and pom start to come out of their shell if only to egg on the ongoing prime time Lucy and Archer bout. Archer still looks like he’s losing, and loving it. Every time Lucy’s owner calls Lucy off to give him some respite he’s diving straight back in. His interaction (when he gets a chance) with the terrier and pom is much more nose bumps and sniffs.

The nurse hands out some free samples and the session is over. Lucy & Archer definitely loved it, I’m not sure the other two pups were quite as impressed. He slept well that night, whimpering and kicking Lucy in his sleep.

First WalkIES

FINALLY the day had come, a week after his 2nd set of jabs and “I” was allowed back out. Sweet freedom, oh and Archer was allowed out the first time as well. We’d been training him to walk on leash in prep and he’d been for a few car rides by now, so it wasn’t going to be a complete shock. I’d arranged to meet with a friend and her dog Syd, a lovely old girl (the dog that is). His first outing was going to be at the local country park a leisurely stroll around the lake.

So on with the leash, the 4 photo montage (see above) was pretty much his reaction:

  • photo 1 – walkies? I don’t know what that is but I’m excited because you are, let’s do it!
  • photo 2 – actually I really don’t know what walkies are and the leash means we are going out
  • photo 3 – out is scary, so many noises and smells
  • photo 4 – i’m scared, let’s just sit here a while

In the end end I gave in (again) and carried him to the car and clipped him in the back. The irony that in a couple of weeks he’ll be chewing my arm off to get out the door and in the car. not being lost on me, so we’ll entertain it for now.

We get to the park and have to drag him out of the car, he’s not a happy pup. I start him slow walking towards the path round the lake. Everything is getting super sniffed, he’s very skittish, totally overwhelmed by it all. Then he spots our friend and her dog and his tail goes up wagging and he forgets how scared he was. In a split second he’s now all about a walk with the pack and making new friends.

So we walk around the lake a couple of times enjoying the weather and the cool breeze. He’s as good as gold, walking nicely on the leash. He greets everyone he meets as a long lost friend, he’s gentle with the small children and respectful to the bigger dogs. All in all a perfect walking companion even at this point.

I’ve decided he will be better of on a harness than a collar and I’ll investigate getting an extending leash, not that it would have been usable today but there will be more open walks in the near future. I have to keep reminding myself that he is still a pup and try and it keep these walks to 15m tops, especially in the sun. We’ll keep it to one walk a day until he gets used to it. It’s obvious even from this first walk that the stimulus he gets is going to make a huge difference to his and my general temperament during the day, and it’s the perfect antidote to the weeks of cabin-fever.

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – Week 3

28th July 2018 — 0



It’s week 3 and we’ve lost our lovely puppy, he’s missing. Replaced instead by a feral egotistical belligerent bundle of teeth and attitude. I know they grow up quick but this is ridiculous, how did we get to the terrible two’s in 3 weeks?

Physically, he’s easily doubled in size and I know it sounds impossible but every time he sleeps, wakes up and stretches he’s noticeably bigger. Two days ago he didn’t have a chest, now when he struts (and trust me he struts) it’s puffed out like a prize roosters. His stubby little legs, are gone, in their place long muscular limbs, he barely has control of. The darker (slightly goldy) cream that tipped his ears is now flowing down his back to the tip of his tail.

I think it’s fair to say he’s settled in. We are now the peasants in his glorious kingdom and as the ruler, he obviously doesn’t need to heed our commands anymore. It’s not that he’s forgotten what NO and COME mean, it’s that they obviously don’t apply to him anymore. A NO at this point will often elicit a snarl and a couple of air chomps, puppy speak for know your place pleb. Training this week has if anything gone backwards, having made such great progress in the first two weeks, it’s a little bit frustrating but evidently normal, so we’ll just work through it.

The situation has been exasperated by a heatwave baking the UK, with temperatures above 30c for over a week. Being the UK, of course, there is no aircon and therefore no respite, during the day or night. So it’s fair to say patience on all sides is running a little thin. Worst still we still can’t go out as he hadn’t had his 2nd set of jabs, so there was a definite case of cabin fever kicking in, and I’m not even talking about the pup.

The poor bugger spent most of these dog days on his gel filled cool mat clutching one of two 2 litre bottles of ice water that get rotated to/from the freezer. But come midnight, he’s got to unload all that potential energy in the way only dogs know how, zoomies! The nights I’ve spent teeth flashing past me in the darkness. Between the pup and the mosquitoes feasting on my legs, I’ve felt like a fatally wounded antelope hoping for a quick end to it all.

I was sharing our stroppy pup woes with my sister one scorching afternoon. She has a year old chocolate Labrador and had been through a lot of these problems already. Having described the symptoms, her advice was to do something to push him out of his comfort zone. He was likely far too comfortable in his little cabin-fever world and probably needed a different perspective on the situation.

Great idea, we have to expose him to lots of new things in these critical weeks, planned amongst them were trips in the car. The car also has the added bonus of having sweet sweet aircon.

Car Drive

I got the car ready, aircon on full blast and dismissed the forge workers who were using it to melt iron, blanket on the back seat, pup on his leash I coaxed him towards the front door. He was being his usual belligerent self, right up to the point I opened the front door. The sight of a huge expanse probably blew his mind. The noise of cars and people in the street added to the experience.

Yep, I think he was definitely outside of his comfort zone, it took 10 minutes to get him 10ft across the drive and into the car.  With him clipped in with his dog seatbelt, rear windows down an inch or two and sunroof open (aircon off at this point we can’t cool the planet) we went for a half hour drive. After some initial whining he settled down, I wouldn’t say he was enjoying it but he was hanging in there (not like he had a choice). After 15 minutes I pulled over, checked on him and gave him some water, he’s definitely outside his comfort zone.

By the time I’d got him back home and back in his safe space I had a happy, compliant little puppy again. I can only assume he decided there might still be a use for these peasants in his world. We’ll see how long it lasts!

Vet Visit

On the same day of his first car drive, we shoved him back in the car and took him to the vet for his 2nd set of jabs and a quick check-over. We were sitting in the vet’s reception for a few minutes and I’ve got Archer in my arms, he can’t touch the floor, I’m not sure if it’s because it’s lava or germs. He’s being a good boy, or more specifically he’s freaking out quietly, looking for reassurance. There’s only one other animal in reception and it’s a stunning border collie with piercing blue eyes, being a very good boy, he’s just sitting on a seat waiting his turn. One day that could be us!

We get called in by the vet and I plonk Archer down on the table, expecting the mad scramble you usually get with vet visits, but he just sat there. For the entire session he just froze, even after being poked, prodded, injected and weighed (8.3kg at just over 10 weeks) he didn’t move, he didn’t whine, he just took it all in. I’ve never had a pet like him, and he’s undermining my tales of woe to the vet, clever bugger.

The vet checks Archer’s white puppy coat and spots something, out with a comb and wet tissue and sure enough, the poor sod has fleas in spite of having Frontline only 3 weeks earlier. Then the vet spots one of the little blighters and kills it. Damn! The chances are they are cat fleas, the cats had their treatment just before he turned up but with the weather as it is, it’s inevitable they’ll be in the house and garden. Ho hum! The vet gives us some better flea treatment that covers a bunch of doggy maladies. Fingers crossed it does the trick.

Other than a few extra passengers, the vet gives him a clean bill of health. We enquire about socialisation classes and luck out filling the last spot in the next class held at the clinic on the coming Monday, fantastic. He can terrorize something else for an hour and will learn to associate the vet with fun, what a great idea.

The last week has been tough on Archer and his staff. But just one week to go and he can finally go out into the big blue room proper and we can start having some real fun. Extra leash training this week in preparation, for freedom!


AnimalsDog Days

Archer – Week 2

20th July 2018 — 0



We’ve made it to week 2 and I have to say he’s come along leaps and bounds literally, he appears to have practically doubled in size from when we got him, or he’s just found a way of stretching across the sofa more efficiently.

Let’s review the top 5 problems of last week and see what progress we’ve made:

  1. he eats everything – he still continues to eat everything and to be honest reading up on it online, that’s not going to change. So if it’s grass/moss, leaves, dirt etc I leave him to it now, if it’s holly, stones, my flowers or deposits from other animals (a particular favourite) I obviously still intervene.
  2. toilet training – much better, switching to being proactive rather than reactive has made everyone’s life easier. We have a solid routine, as soon as he wakes up we go to the garden. He has a drink of water, I call him over to the latrine (with a treat), he very rarely uses it of first asking. He wanders around the garden has a pee (sometimes remembers to get back to the latrine), then usually within 10 minutes has a dump. I clean it all up get the worst of the piss up with paper towel and pickup the number 2’s with toilet paper and flush it down the loo. When he does hit the latrine he gets a ton of treats. Once he’s done we either play or go back inside (usually to play) dependent on the weather/mood. That’s the routine we don’t deviate and since we’ve started it the ONLY mistakes where when I didn’t follow the routine. I still have to carry him to the garden, because he struggles to get down 2 steps (even though he routinely throws himself off the sofa now, which is much higher), that and I believe he would have too many accidents on the way.
  3. night time – huge improvement, the routine is 11pm we go to bed, I take his collar off he gets in his crate and goes to sleep. He wakes about 5 in the morning, he will pee probably one or two times in the night on the pads in the room. I still let him wander around the room at night, but that’s more down to the heat than anything – he does prefer to lay on the cold floor in this weather. He now seems reluctant to poo on the pads, I’m guessing he’s got much better control over his bowel movements than his bladder. He will start to get restless and whine. I’m going to change this routine tonight to again be more pro-active, that is close the door on his cage, set an alarm for 4:30 to get up, take him out, go back to bed till the morning. He’s not a huge fan of getting up in the morning I almost have to drag him out of the cage.
  4. the smell – we gave him a bath on the Saturday and although there is an improvement, there is no way of avoiding he smells like a puppy. He wasn’t a huge fan of the bath but gritted his teeth and bared it. We also cut his nails as they were like needles by this point.
  5. separation anxiety – much better. Over the week I’ve regularly disappeared from his view for several minutes at a time. He tends to yelp a few times and that’s it, I have never returned to him when he’s been barking or whining. He’s bonded much more with Wen now as well so if she’s in the vicinity he doesn’t think he’s been abandoned anymore.

So overall a huge amount of progress in a single week. I grant you it felt like a year, but you take your wins where you can. I’m genuinely surprised by the progress he’s made, he’s also learning the basic commands:

  • Come – still a challenge when he is distracted or in some instances just being plain belligerent – e.g. he’ll stare straight at you and then make a point of ignoring you.
  • No – I’m fairly sure he knows exactly what I meant but would rather carry on doing it anyway.
  • Sit – if anything it’s his go to move after being called, nailed sit.
  • Down – fairly new basically involves putting the food on the floor so he has little chance, will typically only do it if starting from a sit position. Need to mix the commands up a bit.
  • Paw – always happy to throw a paw in your direction, easier than down in many respects. The only issue on calling him you now get a sit, paw, down movement at at once where he anticipates the next commands.
  • Stay –  early days and he hasn’t really got a handle on it yet.

The main focus for this week will be to nail these commands down, get to a pro-active night routine and increase the accuracy on his toilet.

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – Week 1

13th July 2018 — 0



We are slowly getting there. I’ve had to learn as much as him this week about what works and what doesn’t, so it’s been exhausting on both of us. I suspect this will be the worse week though, I guess we’ll see when he starts teething in a few more weeks. I have discovered one of the rope toys works perfectly as a gag if I pop the rope round his neck. doesn’t seem to phase him, just chews it for 20 minutes.

A bit more of his personality is coming out. He’s now started to show the odd sign of affection, wanting to lay near you on occasion and sometimes even giving a shit he’s just bit you, again. Along with it is emerging a wicked stubborn streak. He is relentless if he wants something, be it holly leaves or cat food and when you challenge him you can see the calculated defiance in his eyes.

In spite of all best efforts he managed to get into the cat bowls once and now is on a singular mission to get more of that tasty cat food. We’ve put another gate up to prevent him getting to it, but occasionally it’s been left ajar – it’s a main thoroughfare through the house.

His favourite past time when we are finished in the garden, is to race the long route (he can’t use the short route because the door is usually closed) and try to be in the cat food by the time I can traverse the short route. It’s something like 100ft vs 25 ft. The problem is he’s still proving successful once in a while (because the gate is ajar), and despite my beratement I’m not going to undo the effect of a few mouthfuls of Felix. We’ll be relocating the cat foods to somewhere he can’t reach shortly.

Toilet Training

I watched a few toilet training videos that suggested that being proactive rather than reactive was the way to go. That is, you should be aware before your puppy that it needs to go. So having sent some mixed signals on the subject of toilet training, I’ve gone back to primarily trying to get him to go outside in the garden, ideally in the latrine. I was allowing him to go on the patio, but it’s too much work to cleanup and hose down.

I now show him to the dog latrine, still carrying him most of the way to be fair. He very rarely goes there. But when he does he gets the motherload of treats. I don’t praise or correct him if he goes the toilet anywhere else on the lawn, it’s not like he can do much damage at this time of the year the grass is already yellow, I just clean up the worst of it and move on. I keep him out in the garden until he’s done what I would expect him to do. Hopefully if we persist at this for a bit of time he’ll realise the latrine is the target. I think part of the problem is he wants to walk around before squatting and there isn’t enough room in the metre square latrine to easily do that.


He’s eating Primula Beta puppy food, of which he’s meant to have 4 meals of 50 gramms. The food is wetted to make it easier for him to eat. For the last few days we’ve struggled to get him to eat it all. Reducing the amount of water may have helped (or his appetite has returned) who knows, but he’s starting to woof it down. Apart from cat food (see above) and treats, the rest of his diet still seems to be made up of leaves, stones, sticks and dirt anything he can hoover up in the garden. It’s still a concern but difficult to stop. The good news it’s getting rid of all the crap on my lawn one pebble/leaf at a time, the bad news I’m a deft hand now at getting my fingers down his throat.

Night time

Night time routine is starting to come together, we’ve been aiming to give him supper about 10 as that settles him down and then be in bed shortly after 11. I take his collar off and put him in his cage/bed, he’ll normally take a walk around the bedroom to make sure he knows where everything is and then goes back and sleeps in his bed through to 4-5 when he needs to do his thing. The advantage of having the gate door open at the moment is he just gets up and does it, without having to wake me up. Although he inevitably does, usually because he frets around afterwards rather than going straight back to bed.

I will be closing his cage door all the time next week, and set an alarm for 4:30 to get both of us up, then back into the cage. A couple of more weeks of that and we both might be allowed back in the master bedroom. I’m not taking him outside to toilet at the moment there’s a bunch of puppy pads in the small room. We’ll see how next week goes and consider moving him to defecating outside all of the time. Which would be the ideal, it’s just I don’t fancy a visit to the garden at 4:30 in the morning.


Have I mentioned he stinks, he’s really starting to hum, we’ll be bathing him Saturday to give his coat chance to try dry out in heat of the day. He needs it really bad. I’ve been playing with the hose with him when watering the flowers to get him used to water and being a bit damp. His puppy coat is not very waterproof that’s for sure. My hygiene is only slightly behind his even with daily showers.

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – Day 4

11th July 2018 — 0



I’ll admit it I totally underestimated how full on a puppy can be, we’re 4 days in and I smell more like a puppy than he does, I’ve given up changing shirts (what’s the point), my arms and legs have countless little scratches and my hands are dry and withered from the urine/soap/water cycle. Essentially I think he’s dragging me down to his level, but at least I’d be able to hit the puppy pads with more accuracy.

The cats are clearly starting to lose their patience with him, especially when he encroaches on the favourite parts of their routine, treat and cuddles time. The photo above was of Scratchy at 11pm in the evening after a full day of puppy bullshit, he was deliberately dangling his paw over the side of the sofa goading Archer.

I was on the cat’s side, they have been more than accommodating but the puppy knows no boundaries or limits. It still thinks they are playing and will bark and bound at them, in spite of posturing and hissing. Even having the naivety to chase them on a couple of occasions, which is a huge no-no.

But they have bided their time and have been analysing him for days now, every time he sleeps one of them is watching him for hours at a time. At one point in the afternoon Scratchy bumped noses with a sleeping Archer, they know he’s comatose when he sleeps, after 4 days of non-stop analysis they almost have the full measure of him.

There’s no way of avoiding the fact Archer has some additional training coming up and it will probably start with a long-planned paw to the face, which will redefine their relationship. I suspect given the leniency they’ve shown him though, the first warning is likely to be clawless.

We are still having a high number of accidents, if I’m not reminding him to go pee he will often completely forget where he is and let himself down. Overall I’d say the hit ratio is probably around 60% I’m not sure I want to keep real stats. At least now he understands that it is wrong, a couple of days ago he didn’t even realise that he’s starting to learn my happy and annoyed tones. On his side, he’s also homing his “I’m in the dog house” look, started off a bit weak but will probably be an Oscar-winning performance within the month.

Last night he slept in his bed in the new 30″ cage (perfect fit), with the door open from 11pm-3am. He got up and relieved himself on the pads and had a drink. But then he struggled to go back to sleep, he couldn’t seem to get comfortable and started fretting around (still half asleep mind you). So I got him to go back in his cage and I closed the door, he whined for about a minute, I stroked him through the bars and he gave a big huff (he’s good at huffing) and went back to sleep.

As with most mornings, I have to wake him up, it was 8am again before we stirred. He reluctantly dragged himself out of his cage, went pee on the pad and we headed down and out into the garden for a proper morning constitutional. Breakfast, a bit more play, some more training (I think sit is almost registered, we’ll move onto down next).

He goes through a routine every 3-4 hours which consists of:

  • wake up:
    • pee – almost immediately
    • poo – typically only after a few minutes of activity, I’ve come to the conclusion that anywhere in the garden counts at this point, we’ll narrow it down later.
  • eat / drink (5-10m)
    • he’s not a hugely food-oriented dog, he’ll often need coaxing to eat and will leave quite a bit. Most dogs I know woof a bowl down with a single sharp breath, and there would definitely not be any leftovers.
    • pee – again
  • playtime (20-40m) – minutes made up of:
    • me playing with him, with the various toys, playing chase/tag, or just play fighting.
    • me training him (his name, sit and today down).
    • today we were also learning how to do stairs, there are 2 steps to get around the side to the patio and it freaks him out, so we’ve been practising that, mainly by putting an ever-increasing number of treats on the floor and then giving him a push every so often. It is a bit pathetic, he goes up them readily enough and each step is probably about 5 inches in height.
    • I try to leave him for 3-5 minutes at a time as well, most of the time he will whine but he doesn’t keep it up for long and I make a point of never coming back if he’s whining. Occasionally he’ll have left me a welcome back present. Bad boy!
    • playing by himself – probably about a 1/3 of his wake time he just wants to play on his own with a toy. Sitting quietly in a corner chewing or pushing his Buster cube (unfortunately, the treats are a little large and the reward rate is therefore very low).
    • pee – always with the pee!
  • twilight zone (5-15m) – this is the witching time when he gets tired and his wolf part starts to take over:
    • he gets tetchy, bitey, scratchy, less likely to respond to commands
    • humping – oh yes, even at this age if the conditions are right, anything soft about 6 inches in height, he climbs on top of is going to receive a rude awakening. Disturbing, and hilarious at the same time, bad boy!
    • most of his peeing accidents happen around this time.
    • so this is often how he ends up going back to sleep back in the dog house, under the tea table (he can only just get under it now, it won’t last) huffing and puffing giving me the evil eye.

And that’s it over and over again, it’s like a very unfunny version of the movie Ground Hog Day where we’ve got to get through the day without an accident or a huffy pup. Might take a few weeks and I’m sure one of these mornings I’m just going to throw the alarm clock out the window and skip it and we’ll sleep through.

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – 48 hours later

10th July 2018 — 0



So we are making progress. We switched up the sleeping arrangements and Archer slept with me in his bed in the backroom. He was as good as gold and slept in his bed until about 5am when he relieved himself on the pads I’d put down. Unfortunately, he missed the pads on his numbers 2’s. Nothing wakes you up quite as quickly as the smell of warm dog poo, I praised him for being a good boy, cleaned it up and then went to the toilet myself (not on the pad).

He whimpered for about a minute but for the 10 minutes I was away he was mostly quiet. When I got back he went back to sleep and we slept through to about 8am, past his 7am feeding time. In the end, I had to get him up because he’d have been happy to sleep all morning. His new (smaller ) crate turns up today, so I’m planning to put his bed in that tonight and probably not lock it for the first night, so he gets used it.

He mostly comes to his name now, we’ll continue randomly calling him today and giving him treats when he comes over. We’ve also started on “sit” so we’ll see how quickly he picks that up.

He’s been full of beans this morning, probably because he slept well too. He had a few accidents because he was so excited. I’ve realised I was a little over-optimistic about training him directly to the outside latrine given it’s 50ft from the front room. It was putting a lot of stress on the both of us, we’ll transition in a few weeks when we’ve got some of the other fundamentals sorted, it’ll be a lot easier when we are communicating better.

In the front room & bedroom, I’ve put down 4 puppy pads (1m square) so he’s got a better probability of hitting the target, I don’t want to cover the place because I want him to learn there is a difference.

I’ve now got my act together on cleaning. So front room, has spray / toilet roll / kitchen towel / puppy training pads and a black bin bag. Toilet roll used to pick up his poo and kitchen towel to wick pee out of the carpet. So I can deal with 90% of issues quickly and efficiently. The back bedroom and the patio has the same,

Generally, he seems much happier, more playful, more relaxed more engaged. I hadn’t realised what a blank slate he would be, literally all he knew was not to defecate in his bedding. Everything else needs to be taught including the fundamentals of communication.

I’ve stopped him going onto the lawn it was too tempting to eat any old rubbish and he doesn’t need all the space yet. It’s also easier to wash poo/wee off of the patio. We’ve installed a 2nd gate before the cat food to stop him getting to that and it gives us a little bit more freedom/control.

I’m trying to expose him to as many different experiences as possible, today he was hunting for treats in packing paper, a valuable life skill for sure.

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – 36 Hours In

9th July 2018 — 0



We are 36 hours in at this point and it’s a living hell, interspersed with the occasional moment of respite. There’s a lot the intelligence community could learn about interrogation techniques from a puppy. There are times where waterboarding might actually be a more humane option, than the 10th visit to the latrine to watch a puppy just eat pebbles.

Top 5 problems in priority order:

  1. he eats everything – grass/straw, stones, bugs, dirt, paper, cat food and his favourite dried spikey holly leaves – I think we need to call him Dyson he’s doing such a good job. My fingers spend more time in his mouth than his own tongue, as I try to scoop out whatever new morsel he’s found.  I have visions of being at the vet looking at an expensive x-ray of the contents of the garden in the near future.
  2. toilet training – not surprisingly toilet training, his accuracy rate is about 50% at the moment, he started off well hitting the pads and using the latrine. But we’ve yet to tell the subtle difference between I want to play and I’ve got one in the bomb bay doors. I’m thinking of getting a utility belt with cleaner, wipes etc and wearing it 24/7 as I think an NHS nurse with OCD is not washing their hands as much as I am at the moment. We are also going to need a LOT more kitchen towel, a lot more!
  3. night time – it was clear from the first night he was going to whine for longer than the neighbours were going to be able to put up with it, especially as everyone has their windows open because of the heat. Last night wasn’t too bad, gave him supper just before 10 and I took him to bed. We tried to get him to sleep in a dog basket on the bed. He wasn’t interested far too warm to be curled up in that – so he planted himself horizontally across the bed. We managed to get through to about 2pm, I noticed he was getting a bit antsy, moving around the bed. So I took him down for a quick toilet in the dead of night in the garden. We went back to bed until about 4 at which point he was wide awake, so an hour-long play session, more toilet trips before he was dozing again and we went back to bed from 5 to about 7. Not too bad, but not the solid 8 hours I’m used to.
  4. the smell – he gives off is a somewhat unpleasant whiff that is now my new eau de cologne. I stink of puppy and I’ll be enjoying one of those few moments of calm before the storm, and the fan will blow it across me.
  5. separation anxiety – he’s already imprinted on me, much to the annoyance of Wen and if I’m out of sight for more than a minute he starts whining even if Wen is in the room comforting him. Which is frustrating for her because it just makes her feel like he’s not bonding with her.

And to balance the post out a little here’s a few good things:

  1. he is cute as hell, especially when he’s asleep and I have an hour to myself. His routine at the moment is:
    • wake up
    • pee(100% time)/poo(50% time) – 10 minutes of messing around
    • play for 20-25m
    • fretting 5m, when he doesn’t know what to do with himself, he’s getting tired but he doesn’t want to sleep and he can’t seem to find the optimum place to sleep
    • asleep again – 1-2 hours (repeat like a metronome).
  2. the cats have been amazing with him, neither of them has attacked him in spite of his provocation and not understanding the cat for “sling your hook mate”. They have hissed at him when he’s backed them into a corner and then doing the play jump towards them. Which is fair enough he needs to know there are boundaries. Other than that I think they get it, god knows they been watching him like a hawk since he got here. What they’ve learned so far:
    • when he is asleep he is totally out, completely soundo and they know they can get very close to him. Proof of the pudding was me, Wen, Archer, Itchy and Scratchy all in the same bed at 5:30 in the morning.
    • he currently can’t get up on the side of anything – sofa, tables, cat towers etc, he only works in 2 dimensions, as opposed to the 3 (or more) the cats do. So they’ve taken to leaping over the gate into the front room and over the sleeping puppy. For that matter he can hardly get down anything either – a stair is a complete novelty.
    • he is definitely getting preferential treatment, at the determent to their human time.
    • he is completely hopeless at running, his legs go in every direction and the net result is hilarious, and you know how cats thrive on the misfortune of others.
    • ultimately they know he’s an adolescent, he’s a bit of a strange kitten but one they sense they have to get used to.
  3. in spite of his accidents he does have the basics of toilet training, his mum at least taught him the basics. Most of the time he’ll try and head for a pad or make a noise to indicate he needs to go and like all of us he pees if he gets over excited (just me then?).
  4. Did I mention he’s cute? It is his only redeeming quality at the moment. If I’m honest the ratio of upside to downside is not in his favour, but that’ll change as we get into a routine. He thinks he is good at helping clean up his accidents, he helps by taking the kitchen towel and running away with it, or the pissy rags, he doesn’t care.

Things to work on today (this week):

  • get into a routine on toilet training, we are trying to train him to go to the dog latrine in the garden but for a puppy, it’s a long old walk. So he also has an emergency pad in the front room.
  • we need to get him crate/cage trained, at the moment his time in the cage has been less than 30 seconds to fetch a toy (we keep throwing them back in there). I’ve been inching his food/water towards his cage and his next feed will be with the food in the front of the cage. I’m hoping to get him comfortable with the crate. The only issue is it’s so warm in the cage compared to the cool breeze in the doorway.
  • we’ve “agreed” myself and Wen (you can imagine how that conversation went) I’m going to sleep in the back bedroom with him for the next couple of weeks, for a number of reasons:
    • primarily it’s too disruptive having a puppy in the bed, between the worry of him having an accident or just being squished, that and Wen is working and it’s not particularly conducive to a good nights sleep. We can’t just go cold turkey and stick him in the crate all night, given it’s a semi-detached property with plenty of neighbours.
    • the back bedroom has a single bed, we can get a mattress protector for it, more importantly, it’s mostly empty already as I was using it as a gym room and it has padding on the floor rather than carpet which is easier to clean.
    • I can set up another crate up there, being at the back of the house I can get away with him whining a little more without annoying the neighbours. I will have to just let him work it out over time.
    • the goal will be to get him going through the night in his crate in the next few weeks before Wen is on holiday. And then we both might be allowed back in the master bedroom 😉
  •  start getting him used to the basics:
    • his name and coming when called
    • get him to bond more with Wen so he doesn’t see my absence as the end of the world and Wen gets some time when he’s being cute as opposed to defecating for England.
    • good boy vs bad boy – and NO, means NO
    • get him acclimated to the TV, we are having to stick to PG stuff at the moment as the cacophony of grown-up TV is a little bit scary.

Lot’s to do, did I mention he is cute!

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – Coming Home

8th July 2018 — 0



Finally, the long wait was over. It was the day Archer came to his new “forever” home. For some reason, the forever bit is sounding a bit more ominous today. Unfortunately, Archer’s arrival coincided with a mini-heatwave in the UK and an England World Cup quarter-final match. We had to arrange with the breeder to pick him up earlier in the day to ensure we could get back in time for the kickoff.

I’d got up early to finish digging the dog latrine I’d started digging earlier in the week. A construction effort only exceeded by the building efforts of the Egyptians. By about 11am it was sweltering and my back was killing me from the unusual hard physical labour. The hour-long drive down to Folkestone in an air condition car came as a welcome relief. When we arrived the breeder had done a fantastic job of having everything prepared, including:

  • paperwork:
    • vaccination details – including when the next set was due
    • feeding –  type of food and current schedule (7am, 12pm, 5pm, supper)
    • worming details  – Panacur 3, 5, 7 and 1/2 weeks
    • flead – frontline
    • microchip details
    • pedigree details including his pedigree name
    • Kennel Club registration details
    • contact details if there are any questions
    • receipt
  • a couple of days worth of his puppy food
  • a sheepskin blanket with his mothers/siblings smell on it
  • a rope toy
  • all in a lovely bag with his first “grey” collar tied around the handle (nice touch)

The puppies were in the dining room where we had seen them before. It was sweltering and they were mostly all asleep having just been fed. The mother (and uncle) were eager to say hello as always and I went over and fussed with them. I was feeling a little guilty for stealing one of her pups away from her so I promised her (and his Uncle) we’d take good care of him. I’d like to think it translated.

We completed the paperwork and said our goodbyes, promised to send photos and keep the breeder up to date with his progress. Wen got in the back of the car with Archer and we buckled him up with a car leash. I went to get in the car and in doing so something went twang in my back, I didn’t think anything more of it.

Archer and Wen were very docile on the drive back. We had the aircon on full (music off) and they both dozed most the way home. With a quick stop en route to pick up some more of Archer’s current puppy kibble. Arriving home, I went to get out of the car and my back spasmed doubling me over. I struggled to get around the car, get Archer out and carry him through to the toilet. All the time my back giving out every couple of yards. Not quite how I imagined this precious moment.

We reached the toilet and in one last effort I lowered him down onto my handy work, my back finally giving out. He wandered off a few yards and peed on the lawn, I raged silently in agony. Luckily the sun had already bleached the grass to yellow sawdust so it wasn’t like he could stain the grass.

Wen followed me out after dropping Archer’s stuff off and as usual, she had two cats in tow. They got within a few metres of Archer before realising he was a living breathing animal. Their reaction amazingly was very subdued, choosing to back off slowly to a more comfortable distance and proceeded to scrutinise him from afar. Not all together impressed but not aggressive either. I think we were hugely lucky that their first meeting was on outside on open ground.

I was not feeling quite so lucky, Wen had to help me back up and into the house where we bought Archer into the living room and he crashed out again. It was 30 degrees by this point (with the fan going) and there was little respite especially if you happened to be wearing a lovely fluffy coat.

We had family round to watch the England game. Archer slept throughout the whole match, good boy, laying near the door where there was a slight breeze. He even managed to sleep through the cheers when England went 2-0 up, I was jumping up and down throughout the entire match like a frenetic meerkat as my back continued to spasm.

After the game, we fired up the BBQ and relocated to the patio (under the gazebo) where it was a little bit fresher. Poor Archer was still struggling with the heat and I was by this point having to hand over BBQ’ing duties as the family were getting tired of my shuffling hunchback pace and occasional muted screams.

Archer’s contribution to the BBQ was to drop a truly stunning turd at least as long as he was (he had clearly been well fed) in the middle of the patio. He had tried to make it to the grass area, bless him, but we had cordoned it off. I can tell he’s going to have a great sense of timing already.

We finished the BBQ, Archer had spent the last half awake and burrowing behind me on the sofa. I’m sure he was trying to help with my back, but he’s a rubbish masseur. The Russia/Croatia game was at the halfway mark and we finished watching it before the family made their excuses and headed out.

The first night proved difficult partly because of the pup and partly because my back continued to spasm at the slightest provocation, often sending me sprawling. There are only two rules to a pup’s first night we knew them and they were the cornerstone of our strategy:

  1. ignore his whines, because he will whine it’s natural. If we give in all he will learn is that he gets what he wants when he whines.
  2. never, ever let him in your bed, ever! It sends all the wrong signals and you might as well go sleep in his crate for the use you’ll get out of it.

We had decided to put him in a pen in the bedroom with his bed and blanket (so we could hear him if he had a real problem) turned off the lights and went to sleep. Of course, he started crying 2 minutes later. First as a low sad whine and finally as a yelping scream of desperation.

We gave it 10 minutes before giving in, mostly because it was 1 in the morning and with the heat all the windows were open. In the UK opening a window passes for aircon at the height of summer. So although we would have been willing to put up with his crying, it’s fair to say most of the neighbours would not be enjoying his performance.

We took him out of the pen and comforted him (see Rule 1), we were all exhausted and at this point and if getting some sleep meant kicking a pup a few times in the night so be it. We put him on the bed (see Rule 2).

They say no plan survives first contact with the enemy but this was a complete rout. We can at least take some solace in not being the only generals to have our plan scuppered by the weather. Who would have guessed at a mini heatwave in the middle of summer, in the UK it’s unthinkable.

Once on the bed and after a bit of kicking and biting (him not us) to establish some working rules he finally settled down and went to sleep. We amazingly managed to make it through to 5 in the morning. I rushed him downstairs to the toilet and he did his first pee of the day on target on the AstroTurf. What a glorious sunrise and totally worth getting up at the crack of dawn and crippling myself for.

Things can only get better as the old D:Ream track goes!

AnimalsDog Days

Getting a dog

15th May 2018 — 0


There are dog people and there are cat people, I’ve always been more of a dog person myself. I grew up with dogs and I prefer the engagement you get from a dog to the airy ambivalence I get from cats most of the time. Wen, my other half is a cat person, she has always had cats and if it wasn’t for my intervention she would be a crazy cat lady by now.

We currently have two cats, Itchy & Scratchy we prefer to get them in pairs. Before Itchy & Scratchy was Riker & Troi (STNG was at its peeks back then), so it’s fair to say it’s been a very much feline environment. Which worked out well, we were both working and their independent nature, which is to say sleeping 90% of the day fitted perfectly into our lifestyle. But in the back of my mind I had always told myself as soon as I retire, I’m will finally get a dog.

Having worked for two decades in the City I decided that I’d had enough and it was time for something different, starting with getting fitter, I started by walking a few miles and after a couple of months I was easily doing 50 miles a week and switched up to running (see C25k) to get the old ticker going. In those many hours of walking however, I would pass countless dogs and their owners and my longing to have my own furry walking companion grew.

I had seen this one guy a few times walking his cat, it wasn’t going very well, I remember on one occasion thinking he was up to no good in the bushes, only to realise he was trying to dissuade his walking companion from mousing. On another occasion, he was trying to get the cat off a roundabout but it has spotted a dog 200 yards away and had stubbornly gone to ground. Cat walking is not for me, or I suspect our cats!

The situation came to head, both my parents and sister had got Labrador puppies in the last year. My last visit down to them in May I spent some quality time with both puppies (and oh I guess the family) and I made my mind up. I’d done the groundwork over the years to prepare Wen for this inevitability, so we talked it though, benefits and pitfalls and the key decision was made, we were going to get a dog!

So much choice

But what kind of dog? When I was a kid breeds didn’t really come into play, every dog we had was a mongrel, getting a dog was more about who you knew who’d had an unplanned litter. These days there are more breeds than you can wave a stick at, and new hybrids seem to be turning up every year with increasingly bizarre names.

Luckily myself and Wen are broadly on the same page with our dog preferences. Neither of us found we were drawn to any of the breeds in the toy, utility, terrier or hound groups to use the kennel club taxonomy. So we rapidly narrowed the choice down to:

  • Pastrol – Border Collie
  • Working – Husky / Malamute
  • Gundog – Retrievers – Labrador / Golden

So the next step was to research the breeds on our short list and really try t0 get a good understanding (good & bad) of living with each of these breeds.

Starting with the border collie, which to be quite honest was our first choice, in a big part probably driven by watching them play Flyball at Crufts. Unfortunately, it became fairly obvious in our research that a Border Collie might be a bit too full on. My favourite quote was an owner who said collies had OCD and if you don’t give them a job, they will create one and it’s typically herding kids and animals in the family. The thought of our cats being herded around based on the dog’s fantasy schedule was really tempting. But in the spirit of harmony, we came to the conclusion a Corder Collie was probably not the best fit.

We both love Huskies and Malamutes mainly because you can still see some of their wolf origins, they are spectacular looking creatures. But again it was obvious in our research, that they have been bred to run and run, are strongly independent and take a huge amount of exercise if you don’t want a  problem on your hand. So reluctantly we had to admit they weren’t going to be the breed for us, A real shame because they look like real characters.

That left us with the good old retrievers, well known for their easy-going temperaments, they are good with other animals (i.e. they won’t try to herd or kill the cats). So which to choose? There are subtle differences between the two breeds but ultimately they are not so great I believe to elevate one above the other, in the end, we selected the golden retriever simply because of their natural smiling happy expression, and simply to buck the trend of getting Labradors in the family.

But it doesn’t end there, Golden Retrievers have a huge spectrum of colours from light cream all the way through to practically red. It wasn’t a deal breaker but we tended to find ourselves leaning towards the lighter cream end of the spectrum if there was a choice.

Gender wise (a dog or bitch) we didn’t have a strong preference. I read a number of forums where people had asked similar questions and the general response was it doesn’t make a huge difference, IF you get them spayed/neutered. Which was going to be our plan anyway – we are not looking to breed.

Lastly to get a puppy or to get a full grown (likely to be rescue dog). We really wanted a puppy, we had taken in rescue cats before (Riker & Troi) and we had naively underestimated the challenge of taking in animals that have not had the best start in life. Especially when it’s a lifetime commitment. In addition, Wen had never had a dog and I think it was only fair that she got the full experience (snigger).

My biggest suggestion to anyone thinking of getting a dog would be too do your homework, dogs span a huge spectrum and in most instances, your circumstances, lifestyle or environment can preclude many breeds if you are honest to yourself and your prospective pet.

Finding the Right SELLER?

This is the hardest part, finding a respectable breeder or seller that isn’t in it to make a quick buck. There’s a lot of good information about how to vet sellers and spot the puppy farmers, and of course, in these days of people leaking their private information all over the internet, it’s generally quite easy to background check how committed breeders are. Casual sellers can be a bit trickier.

On an aside we did look at rescue centres first, but there were few with puppies (not surprisingly) and I was put off by the fact in many instances we had to fill in a huge questionnaire and submit to extreme vetting measures simply to get on their waiting lists. I understand they have a duty of care, especially for rescued animals, but there was something that annoyed me about having to justify ourselves using such a blunt bureaucratic process. In my experience, you can tell more about a person by meeting and talking to them than by what they might write on a piece of paper, and yes I understand it’s a filtering mechanism, it’s just that it’s filtering out a lot of potentially good homes IMO.

In the UK pedigree dogs can be KC registered, this is not a guarantee of “quality” but most of the serious respectable breeders will have KC registered parents and will aim to register the puppies. Of course, all of this comes at a price, and as always in life, you tend to get what you pay for. Looking at pedigree golden retrievers prices ranged from £600-£1500, which is a big spread and a lot of money any way you look at it. When you start sifting through the details there are several criteria that allowed us to start rating prospective sellers:

  • KC registration, paperwork that you can view and copy
  • HIP, Elbow and eye screen results for the parents – particularly important for retrievers
  • the breeder wants to vet you, in some instances demanding someone is always in the home
  • ability to view mother and pups
  • the pups are being brought up in a family environment with exposure to all that entails
  • they spend at least 8 weeks with their mother
  • backgrounds on the parents, ideally that they have multiple members of the same line
  • jabs, chipped and puppy packs (a sample of the food they are on, a blanket with their mother’s scent etc)
  • geographical closeness, least important but if you are going to make multiple visits could be a factor

In the UK there are a couple of websites (pets4homes and preloved ) that seem to be the most used mainstream sites for people selling puppies. So we started scanning those on a daily basis, hunting for a good fit.


Acquiring a dog may be the only
time a person gets to choose a relative
Mordecai Siegal

It took us a few weeks of searching (it wasn’t like we were in a hurry) to find a seller that ticked all the boxes for us, in the end, we found a lady in Folkestone, who’s bitch had a litter of 11 (10 dogs, 1 bitch). We arranged to go down and visit her and the pups on a fantastic sunny afternoon, nice drive down to the coast.

The mother and pups were in her dining room in a wooden pen that occupied most of the room. The room was clean and airy and we were greeted by what we assumed was the father of the pups (turned out to be the uncle). A very good boy and both me and Wen spent some time fussing over him, evidently passing the first test in the process. I was surprised by how much bigger the uncle seemed to be in comparison to most labs I had seen, emphasised by his wide solid head and huge paws. I’d be over the moon if our pup turned out like this prize specimen.

Top tip – the seller told us she had to turn away a prospective puppy buyer who waded into the pen without permission and without interacting with any of the other dogs in the house. I guess dog people can spot dog people fairly easily, that and manners maketh man.

The poor mother had that drained look of any new mother, especially one trying to feed 11 pups 24/7. She took the chance to get out of the pen and came over to vet us as well before taking a well-deserved snooze in the corner.

Then the moment of meeting our prospective pup, you look into the pen and look for that connection which will single one out and I’m afraid it’s not like the movies, at only a couple of weeks old they are blind, wiggling balls of fluff who’s only job in life is to feed. So we watched the mother climb back into the pen and out of the wiggling mass picked one purely based on its size, willingness to screw over his siblings to feed and ultimately his light cream coat.

We picked him up (he had a grey collar) and looked for all the world like a little polar bear. We attempted to bond, which basically came down to having a finger sucked. Took a ton of photos and let him get back to feeding, and tried to ignore the fact he spent 5 minutes sucking his mum’s ear. Maybe not the brightest pup in the pack. And that’s how we narrowed down the selection, hardly the way you think such a moment should unfold.

The owner showed us the father’s paperwork, a Czech stud dog with a pedigree slightly longer than my arm and the mother’s who had come from a long line that her parents had started breeding. So we exchanged details, put down a deposit and arranged to catch up for a socialisation/bonding session in a few weeks when older grey collar was able to see and walk. Oh, and the seller would send us weekly progress photos, fantastic.

What’s in a Name?

I think we managed to get as far as the motorway before we started the inevitable conversation about what we would be calling grey collar, being die-hard GoT fans he almost ended up being called Grey Worm right there and then. By the time we were pulling off the motorway, it was fairly clear that Wen was going to get her way on this and the best I could do was at least veto Fenton!

Given our current pets, Itchy & Scratchy Wen wanted to buck with tradition, so my suggestion of Poochie wasn’t going to fly, plus it didn’t past the “shouting it in the middle of the night” test. Wen finally came up with Archer. Really? A good British name (as Al Murray would say), smacks of strength, cider on the village green, listening to BBC Radio 4. I’m sure that’s what she had in mind.

Unfortunately, in my mind, I’m thinking Sterling Archer, the irreverent bumbling Bond rip off, yeah baby I can live with that. So grey collar got his name … Archer,  not Archie Wen was quick to point out, Archer! (secret spy).

The countdown had started – 6 weeks until Archer would be coming home and there was a lot to sort out.