October 3, 2002
It's hard to believe that my baby boy is nearly a year old. He seems like he has always been part of the family, and yet it seems that just a few weeks ago he was hiding under the ottoman or begging to be lifted into my lap for a nap.
Sometimes when this lanky, goofball teenager is rocketing around the house or climbing on the table I wonder if he'll ever grow up and simulateously mourn the short, precious days of puppyhood. Then he'll stop and look at me, and I'll see in his soft, dark eyes and regal head the promise of the adult he's going to be. The next minute, he'll curl up next to me on the bed, sigh and make soft sucking noises, and I'm reminded that the puppy is still there too.
Mornings and nights are the special times. He sleeps on the bed between me and my husband. These are the cuddle times, times for kisses and scritchies and snorfles. He jumps like a cat, light and effortless, but he has little body sense, unconcerned by exactly where his feet land (and who is under them).
When I got Pax, I got him specifically as a competition prospect -- and he still is. He has been clicker trained since the day I brought him home. We did puppy classes, a conformation class, and now we're on week two of an agility foundations course. He is a dream to train -- smart and willing. His biggest challenge is his lazy trainer, but I'm hoping this agility class helps with that.
Raising Pax was easy and essentially problem-free. My husband and I laugh, however, because we've intentionally taught him some behaviors that other people wouldn't think were particularly desirable. He's pushy. He jumps. He treats the furniture like a jungle gym. And I absolutely adore it. My previous dogs have been insufferably polite and calm, and it drove me bonkers. I will confess, however, that I was embarrassed during free-play at a class when I looked up and he was walking along the top of a table. I'm not worried about these behaviors in the least. If ever they become a problem, I'll simply train him to do something else!
Adolescence has been a bit of a rollercoaster. As a conformation prospect, he is still intact. He has, thus far, exhibited no obnoxious male characteristics except a propensity for marking. That can be managed fairly easily though. When he turned seven months old -- almost to the day -- his loose leash walking and recall went to hell. It was a predictable occurrence, and I didn't panic. I bought a Gentle Leader to use in emergencies -- though I haven't had a reason to use it -- and I switched to a body harness for most of his walks. He's back on a flat collar now, and a few exuberant manuevers aside, he's fairly well mannered.
A typical retriever, he needs to have something in his mouth when he gets excited. Very often he grabs a shoe or other non-chew-toy. He doesn't chew these things, just carries them until he satisfies the need to have something in his mouth. This habit isn't a problem for us -- just an amusement. We occasionally have to search for our things, finding them dropped in the garage or the back yard.
Just this week, he exhibited his first inappropriate chewing. He found a book on the floor in an upstairs bedroom and chewed that in the early morning hours before I got up. Last night my husband cooked dinner and left the kitchen garbage can full of raw chicken scraps and other morsels. He forgot to put the garbage can away when he was done, and this morning I found Pax tearing apart an empty chicken container. Again, I'm not going to panic. My Newf went through his one and only inappropriate chewing phase when he turned a year old. After a few months of careful management, it was over, and Pax's stage, too, shall pass.
I don't know what the next year will bring. I had hoped to show him in conformation, but he is very much a gawky teen right now. I'll wait until he matures a bit before putting him in the ring. We'll stick with the agility classes, and perhaps by the end of the year, he'll be ready for some trials. Doesn't matter. We're just having fun!
List and Site Owner: Melissa Alexander, mca @ clickersolutions.com