Years ago we raised chicks and ducks in our basement bathroom. It was a large bathroom – laughingly so- it was large and ugly. Very outdated but warm and quiet- perfect for a couple of brooders (bird nursery). When we first decided to raise ducks we got three ducklings on a whim from tractor supply. They were so tiny and SO cute. They get you with their cuteness. These ducks were Pekin ducks. They get to be quite large. At the time I knew nothing about these ducks except I had seen them on the menu at most Chinese food restaurants!
I set up their brooder in the bathroom one February weekend. We oohed and ahh’ed at their cuteness and took lots of photos and videos. Three days in I could not believe how much they had already grown. Kevin- who at the time had an office in the basement- would go in to check on them (and maybe to use the facilities)and he swore they grew from hour to hour. And I think it was true. By the time I let them out to the real world I was done with ducks (not ducklings anymore) in the bathroom (though I did it again a few years after this! short memory!)
This growth is uncanny – it happens in real time – you feel like you can see it. The same has happened with my Golden Doodle Del. He is hardly the tiny puppy that he was when he came here. And we expect that right? But I hardly feel like he was a little pup at all. Like I cannot recall what he looked like – I look at photos and think he was never that small. But he was – but for like one day! He has grown so fast that I can honestly say that he would go in his crate one size at night and leap out of it the next morning – and he does leap out- as a bigger version of the dog who went in. That kind of growth has to hurt!
Del is now a huge, leggy, 6.5 month old joyful and boisterous puppy. He is 63 lbs. For reference Rudy – my golden- was probably less then 50 lbs at the same age. Del is not a giant breed. But his mix can get large. At his growth rate he could be over 90 pounds! I am hoping not. He is already a lot to handle.
We joke it was some type of gamma radiation that has caused this growth rate. When he came home he was as large as my mother’s Corgi mix who weighs in at 18 lbs. Within a week he was much bigger than she and now he towers over all my other dogs. All of whom are not small dogs. Del doesn’t weight more than the adult dogs yet but in height he towers over them by 2-3 inches! A couple of our dogs took their merry time in accepting the likes of this new puppy. I kept telling them that he was going to get big and then what? And now they look up to him maybe not in admiration but definitely in stature. They have also decided that he isn’t too bad. They are adjusting still. They do play together now but there is posturing and this will continue probably forever because they are male.
Del will need to be neutered. There are so many varying opinions on when to do this. Some say for males to wait at least a year – some even say 2 years. Rudy was neutered at age 2. I waited with him because he was not dominate – though he was mounting our lab a lot and never stopped after neutering- which is why I am not waiting two years again! So I am less inclined to wait two years. I know there is a chance if we do it before his growth plates seal that he could become taller. It can increase the issues for other health problems if done too soon and lower risks for others!
I think our vet will recommend to wait until he is a year but only if he doesn’t exhibit behavioral issues such as mounting humans, or aggressive behavior towards humans and dogs. I will be honest -I am leaning towards sooner. Like in May. I have many reasons for it. But my main one is that I don’t want him to become too high on his horse and try to rule all the dogs here because he is intact. If he is the leader of the pack eventually thats fine. I just don’t want a bully situation. I think neutering mellows them some. Thats also can’t hurt with training and maybe his ability to walk on the lead better.
Del can be a handful on lead. I have been working with him on many things. He can sit, lay down, shake, twirl, sit for getting his lead on, wait and not bolt out the door when we are going out with him, he can stay pretty well if I am carrying his food bowl around and inside if I have a treat. We are working on the stay- inside is better than outside. But he is terribly exuberant outside. So this has been a the challenge. I have begun to try to manage and train away some of the behavior issues. Pulling – I am using a head lead now which is the manage part of the issue. I was using a Gentle Leader type device but I found a very neat regular leash that makes into a head lead. I got it on Etsy and I haven’t tried it on a long walk yet because the weather has been hideous here. But on a short walk he did well with it. I will post videos of it on IG and FB. The head lead is an adjustment for dogs and they will try to get them off – not because they hurt but because they work! It is the same idea as with a horse with a halter on. I have not used it enough yet to have a full verdict on it. I feel like I have his attention more with leads like this and I can train him better.
For me this head lead is like night and day walking him. I need to be safe walking him. I need to have control. Since I have nerve damage I can’t have him yanking my arms. I feel with this type of lead and consistent training there will be a time when he won’t need this. But he needs it now. I have tried a number of no-pull harnesses and he walks with one on so I can switch between then when we go on long walks. But the head lead seems to be the better one for me at the moment. We will see how we progress.
Barking! I think Del gets his barking gene from the poodle part of him! He is more wary of people and maybe because he hasn’t been as well socialized with humans because of covid – so on walks he will bark at approaching people and other dogs. So I began to use a product called Pet Corrector. It is a a can of air that makes an annoying hiss sound. It is annoying I will say that. So when we approach others we ask Del to sit and not to bark. If he does this he gets a treat but if he barks we use the spray. I hold it behind me so he doesn’t see it. But it does get his attention. He was barking at the door in the house along with our higher strung collie mix. I used this spray and it has curbed the worst of the barking. On walks it is going to take time and just having him become more socialized. He is never aggressive once a person wants to pet him. But he looks scary when he barks and carries on because he is so large. He has been good with new dogs as well on the few occasions he has met one.
I will admit I thought for some reason getting a puppy during COVID would be better for his socialization. I am not sure why. I mean everyone has to stay six feet away from us. I think I just got sucked into the COVID puppy vortex! I really have no regrets. Having five dogs again (my moms makes 6) in the house is a challenge especially because of his size but after Ridley died last January it seemed like we lost this big personality. And Del is a sassy and funny guy. He is not hyper and is really pretty calm for a puppy. I keep telling people we will get down to three dogs and not go back up to this many. But nobody believes me. It is true I have a thing about dogs but I know we aren’t getting younger and having less dogs will make sense in the not so distant future. So that is the plan. Who knows if we (I) will stick to it.
Having a puppy was challenging in the first month but it just went too fast! I can say that there have been moments where I have been down during the pandemic and Del has made me laugh – belly laugh- every single day since he has been with us. He is loving to all of us and already very dedicated to me. I know this because so often I turn around in the bathroom and I see that he has nosed his way in and is just sitting there watching me brush my teeth. Thats dedication! We will see where he ends up on the size chart only time will tell. And of course it doesn’t matter how big he gets. It is just fun speculating.
Having a puppy does make you feel joyful and hopeful – these are things I think the world needs now. Thats probably why there have been so many dog and cat adoptions during COVID. Animals give us a break from the human world. They can look into your eyes and make you feel loved – then they try to nip your nose or breath their foul breath in your face and you laugh. They are likely saving many lives during COVID just for the company they give. I have said before- a life for me would not be a life without a dog in it. I stand by that- and I am sure many others join me in that feeling (dog/cat/bird/horse etc) especially during COVID. I owe my pets a debt of thanks. Truly grateful for them.