In February of this year we lost our beloved Samantha and our hearts were broken. Our family had a huge empty space in it that both dogs and humans noticed. No way could we ever replace Sam, but we missed our three dog pack and were lonely for the chaos of life with three dogs ! As busy as we were with two dogs, four cats, and two small boys (Eric almost 3, Mark almost 4) our house seemed incomplete. Though friends thought I was nuts, my family supported the quest for a new member of our pack.
I began my search on the internet researching pedigrees and followed up with visits to New York, Springfield, Ma and finally Deerfield, NH. I found the perfect fit with Errigal Golden Retrievers in Deerfield, NH. So now we have a new dog at our house and we are in love again ! In June of this year we added a new Golden Retriever puppy to our family. I see adorable puppies every day of the week so I am not easily smitten with a cute ball of fluff, but I have to say that I was in love with Cameoís litter and their mother and father from the moment I laid eyes on them. They were stunningly gorgeous (Iím only a little proud) and the work the breeder (Deirdre Doyle) puts into raising her puppies is absolutely staggering. The careful attention to keeping the puppies clean, exposing them to sights, sounds, tactile stimulation, people and adult dogs is a full time job with no time off.
A breeder who raises her litters the way Deirdre does is giving puppy buyers the best dog they will ever own. Invaluable gifts a good breeder can give her puppy buyers include early interaction with toys, having a clear place to potty, being introduced to a crate early, being bathed and handled many times daily, and feedback about using their mouths on peopleís skin. Puppies who get this headstart are not only easier to raise, they are easier to live with as adult dogs. Of course you still have to train them, socialize them, and teach them how to live with you, but you have good raw material to start with which makes the job easier.
First lesson: Do your research and choose a breeder who puts extra time and effort into her litters- the payoff is incredible ! Now, many of you are scratching your heads saying why on earth would you add a puppy to your family with such young kids and a business to run?! Having lived through raising Cameo this summer with the boys being only 2 and 3, I will say it hasnít been easy, but Iím a professional dog trainer and knew what I was getting into. For a first time dog owner I would discourage it: the amount of work involved is as much if not more than having another baby!
This puppy was my 35 th birthday present to myself and I wanted her more than any other dog Iíve owned. Because of this I have willingly surrendered all of my free time to Cameo and her training and socialization. Because my boys are home with me during the day finding separate time to socialize Cameo outside the house is difficult. I have help on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and that is when Cameo and I go on outings. This of course cuts into work time and personal time, but the future adult dog that Cameo will become is very important to me. I expect alot from all of our dogs, but above all else they must be willing and able to go anywhere with me and act in a civilized manner.
Lesson number two: Be willing to give up personal time to invest in your dogís future adult behavior. I can think of no better investment than to spend time socializing and training your puppy now so that you can reap the rewards of a socially stable and confident adult dog.
Things come in packages Iíve discovered. If you get a dog with a soft temperament that isnít chasing the kids and biting at them, you also get a dog that is a little less tolerant of new noises and new places.
This means Cameo is a bit of a scaredy cat and needs tons of social experiences. She needs to go lots of new places, hear lots of noise, learn that the world is a safe place to be. Luckily, though it isnít easy to find the time to get her to all of these new places sheís a quick study once sheís there. Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon without fail we go on walks in the neighborhood and hang out by construction equipment, we go to the beach, downtown Melrose, the woods, the train station, dog shows and agility practice at other training centers. We acclimate to the new place first and then we work on heeling, sits, downs, leave it and greeting people.
Weíve taken the train into Downtown Crossing and to Faneuil Hall, weíve been to Salem Common, weíve had outings at friends houses and random neighborhoods as well as weekends away to Maine. Cameo has met close to 400 people, played in 14 different puppy kindergarten classes with dozens of different puppies, and been the demo dog in 20 different first night classes. Despite what seems like a lot of socialization, we arenít done yet. I still have to work at this and put many more deposits in Cameoís bank account before I am assured of having a confident adult dog.
Lesson number 3: Socialization is a time consuming project that begins when the puppy is small and continues into adulthood. The average puppy needs at least this much social experience, the shy puppy needs triple the amount before they turn six months old.
Are you exhausted yet ? Suffice it to say that if you are planning to get a puppy in the near future be ready ! Puppies take a lot of time to train and socialize but each investment of time that you make now is money in the bank account for a socially healthy adult dog. This beautiful young dog is my joy, she is now seven and a half months old and beginning to show the confident adult dog she is becoming. Cameo is on her way to becoming the new wonder dog. She will never replace our Sam, but the space that was so empty is now filled up with this spunky young dog who is so full of life and has such a great sense of humor. ( I often catch her standing on the coffee table with a big grin on her face...like she belongs there !) Cameo has big paw prints to fill but she is managing to win her way into our lives and hearts. Enjoy your puppies, train them, socialize them, love them..... they grow up so fast !!