Wednesday, November 22, 2017

☸️ We. Are. Teething.

Our dogs are our children. You need no further evidence than this article.

My pal Bodhi is going through the loss of his puppy teeth. They usually get swallowed as soon as they loosen enough to fall out, but I managed to snag one last weekend.

We were out for a walk on the Warrenton Greenway last Saturday, and Bodhi was doing his usual grab-the-lead-in-his-mouth routine, taking me for a walk. I’ve been letting him have his way more during our walks, confining stricter heeling to our training sessions.

It’s all the same once he tires during a walk, but at the outset and near the end, when he knows he’s almost done, he likes to lead me along.

As Bodhi chomped down on the nylon lead and pulled, I saw a small, white blur ricochet from his mouth to the ground. I knew what it was right away. Having never seen or had one of Zele or Stella’s puppy teeth, I was keen to snag this one before he lapped it up.

Labs are, when in the mood, garbage cans who will eat damn near anything. Not this time.

A puppy tooth

Exhibit number one, at right: a maxillary pre-molar from Bodhi. It’s sitting on a table in our living room, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with it now that I’ve written about it. I suspect it’ll be tucked away for remembrance well down the road. Today, though, it’s in my hand, and his gums have a reddish socket waiting for an adult tooth to grow in.

Teething aside, we’re training, too.

Both Zele and Stella joined me at training sessions held by the Warrenton Kennel Club when they were young.

Bodhi will follow in their paw prints – I’ve registered him for the January class. A month or so back I noticed he's not only inquisitive about everything around him, but a little bored, too. That restless combination makes for a mischievous puppy. The solution is to occupy his mind and tap his energy.

Our two-car garage sans cars makes a fair-sized training ring. I recalled enough of what I learned years ago to put Bodhi through the paces of sit, sit-stay, down, down-stay, heel, and come. We’ve had much success, and I’ve recaptured the joy I remember experiencing with Zele and Stella each, watching them happily work toward a tiny treat or an emphatic “good girl!!” Bodhi gets a “good BOY!”

He’s very good at a long stay, and I’ve tested him by calling his name during a stay without a command following. He won’t move my way until he hears his name followed by “come.” On the other hand, “down” is still a work in progress. He’ll obey the command when I’m next to him, or a couple of feet away, but it’s hit or miss much further than that. He’d rather be on his butt, waiting for a "come."

A white Labrador Retriever sitting on grass and autumn leaves, with a stick in his mouth

One thing missing in our training routine is distraction. He does great in the quiet of an empty garage, but out on the trails and sidewalks his mind is somewhat scattered by all the motion around him, not to mention the people and other dogs. Adding the other dogs present at weekly sessions with the WKC will require more focus in order to gain that little treat or praise.

In the mean time he’s coming along well. I’ve left him out of his kennel while away from the house on errands to no ill effect. His chewing is restricted to toys. About the only occasion that tests our patience is when he tries playing with twelve-year old Stella, who is showing her age. Sometimes his play is welcome, but in the evening usually not so much. We give her a break by letting Bodhi enjoy his kennel for a few minutes, where he promptly falls asleep.

Something took me by surprise a few days after Bodhi came home with us, and it trips me up still. I'd become so accustomed to older dogs who’d learned our routines and the rhythm of our home life that having a puppy in the house brought confusion and chaos, mainly in my mind. There’s nothing unusual about that, but it required some re-learning on my part. A few minutes of frank discussion with our vet helped frame it for me. This young, white Lab who looks much like our departed Zele is not Zele, and bears none of her habits and relaxed behavior. Those will come, in his own way and time. It’s been a re-learning experience for me.

I’ve been told that this pup would be a good dog regardless of training, and that he’s a smart boy, by two people who should know. He’s proven them both right. I do love this beautiful Labrador Retriever. He never fails to bring out the joy in me.

#Bodhi #LabradorRetriever #teething #training