Hera has doggy introductions with Senior Momma Dog, Diana.
Introducing a new puppy in the household is remarkably similar to child rearing, although the stages thankfully progress faster than with human children. Nonetheless, there are 2:00 AM feedings, managing and teaching good bodily waste elimination habits, socialization with older canine household members, visits to the Vet, sleeping arrangements, shots, diet management, exercise, play periods, sleep schedule, puppy care and teaching life skills. Even language skills are a part of the process. She needs to learn a little English and every dog owner needs to learn a little Dog. Although every pup goes through the same learning stages, each one differs from their littermates to varying degrees. Volumes have been written on selecting the most appropriate puppy. Some pups will be larger and usually more aggressive, while others may be timid or more intelligent. While training and nurture can improve some characteristics, genetics play a very important role in determining what characteristics the adult dog will have. Nature vs. Nurture is as significant an argument in the canine world as in the human one.
While I can get along with most dog breeds, Labs and mixed-breed Labs, are my hands-down favorites. They are truly multi-purpose dogs that have predominantly friendly dispositions. Their heritage as working dogs provides them with good bone and organ structures, they have a good functional nose, excellent eyesight, strong teeth, good claws, solid feet, are well furred, their coats feel good to the touch and they are not usually finicky eaters. Although I enjoy duck and quail hunting, I live in a miserable place for both. I don’t have enough regular shooting at either to keep a dog in training. Most of what I need and use dogs for are for intruder warning, deer tracking and finding and retrieving whatever game I happed to shoot; be it squirrel, rabbit, deer, dove, duck, or goose. They also serve the important function of being good outdoor companions and more than once have warned me of snakes and other dangers. Most often I waterfowl hunt in small waters from small boats, and I prefer smaller, rather than larger, Labs. For my uses I had rather my dogs weigh about 60 pounds, rather than 100. Where I live in Georgia, our winters are mild, and most of the time these smaller dogs work well for me. When trailing deer with a dog on a leash, one of my more common uses of these animals, I had rather be pulled through the briers and swamps by a 60-pound dog, rather than a 100-pound one. To see a recent video on deer finding go to: http://youtu.be/a7n4-PFa_dI.
Hera, the present pup, is a female yellow Lab that was the largest of the 8-pup litter. Her mother has the look of a pure-blood Lab, while the male has something of the head profile of a pit bulldog, but otherwise looks all Lab. I did not have a chance to see the rest of the puppies. Hera was the first chosen, but for whatever reason was not picked up. Her owners called, said that she was available, and I immediately drove across the county to get her. She had her first visit to the Vet on her trip home. The Vet’s exam confirmed my observation that she was a sound, healthy pup. My next stop was at my local bank. I mentioned to the bank president, a childhood friend, that I had a new pup and he expressed interest. I brought her into the bank and everyone there got their Lab puppy fix for the day, with many comments on how attractive she was. (Small town America still works like this.) My other Labs, Diana and Casey, 11 and 10-years old respectively, did not have a clue that they were shortly to be joined by a new member of the Whitehall hound-dog herd. Diana, now Senior Momma Dog, inspected the new arrival with a degree of skepticism and gave me a look as if to say, “How dare you bring this thing home without asking me.” Casey, who was an abused rescued Lab, is very timid. During the first days she ran from the pup, but now is more assertive, particularly when Hera sinks here needle-sharp teeth into her tail and pulls on it. Both of these adult dogs are now teaching Hera some doggy manners. I had only a few minutes warning that Hera could be picked up, and my first task was to start making a door block from a pallet so that I could keep Hera confined to the linoleum-floored kitchen. I own a large portable dog kennel, and I put it into the corner of the kitchen to be her new home. I had a cast iron fireplace screen that I installed in the door frame, but she managed to climb over that. The next morning I finished the door block and installed it. I have a video of building the door block at: http://youtu.be/r8xD813NBOE.
Now, several days later, Hera is getting into the household schedule. Up at 2:00 A.M., out, fed, out, play with other dogs, sleep while I work. Up again at about 7:00 A.M., feed, out with dogs, back in, play, sleep, noon feeding, out again, play, sleep, 5:00 P.M. feeding, out, 10:00 bedtime. She has already learned to tell me when she needs to go out. All I have to do is to put her on the top step, and she will let me know when she wants to come back in. It is still intermittently cold in Georgia, and I am letting her stay inside with increasingly more exterior exposures as the weather warms. She is now accepted by the other dogs, and they will let her bed down with them. All told, the hound-dog world is getting along well.
Hera is making remarkably rapid progress towards growing up with every indication of becoming exactly what I need a dog to be – disciplined, useful and loving. Future training will be to expose her to gunfire, boats, the woods, and activities of everyday life in the rural South. All indications are positive. Raising a dog which will likely live to be 11-to-14-years old requires a long-term commitment on the part of the owner. It is very helpful to have some older dogs to take on part of the puppy rearing. Any way you cut it, pups, like children, will require a lot of investment in money, time and care. I think that they are worth every bit of it. I don’t think that I will ever be without my dogs.