Happy New Year! As I sat down to write this I realized Caleb is 4-months-old today and time is already flying by. It has been a busy month around our house bringing home a new puppy during the cold winter months has its challenges. The days are shorter and colder and potty training takes time, sometimes lots of waiting time. Luckily, Caleb figured out that the quicker he did his business the faster he could resume his position in front of the fireplace.
Turns out Caleb’s a very fast learner all around, which I attribute to his Labrador genes and perhaps the food rewards. It goes without saying each and every dog has their own unique personality and we often compare the traits of our previous Guide Dog puppies. Solstice was our sassy girl, Laker was our mellow moose, and Caleb, he’s our lap dog. He’s sort of a diva—a very adorable and loveable diva, as we are coming to learn. He’s been especially great to have around this week as it marks the one-year anniversary of Noah’s passing . Caleb loves nothing more than to spend hours snuggled up on a lap, which is just what I’ve needed lately.
A few weeks ago, Caleb went to our amazing vet for his final set of puppy shots; he came through with a superb health report and won the off-the-chart cuteness award from the entire staff. Before he completed his vaccinations, we were careful to avoid interactions with unknown dogs. While it’s critical that young puppies begin socializing early, it’s more important to protect their immune systems from potentially dangerous infections. Luckily, we had a few Guide Dog puppy club meetings to get him acquainted with other dogs being raised in our club, and a meet-and-greet with Arden (now Artie) and a visit with Andera (now Andhi). He’s now well aware that the bigger dog always calls the shots and you need to respect your elders, important skills to learn early on. Now that he’s vaccinated we have been venturing out on more advanced socializations and outings.
We try to do at least one socialization or outing per day ranging from a trip to the post office or a restaurant to the movies. Our outdoor activities are limited by the cold Central Oregon winter and the attention span of a 16-week-old puppy, so we end up going to the movies, a lot. Caleb, of course, goes with us. He also makes a perfect chick-flick date when my husband Alex is not around.
Last weekend, we were leaving the theater and stopped by a family who mentioned they too were puppy raisers from Medford, Ore. After a few minutes of chatting, we learned they had raised Caleb’s mom Tulin! It was a great treat for them to meet one of Tulin’s puppies and also for me to learn a bit about his mom. Hopefully, we’ll get to see more of them as they have a vacation home in Central Oregon and visit often. As Caleb gets older we’ll do more outings per day but since he’s still such a pup we like to ease him into all the stimulation the world has to offer. Guide Dogs for the Blind provide raisers with some general guidelines for age appropriate outings for puppies.
In addition to outings and socializations, Caleb is subjected to daily puppy-handling exercises, in his mind this translates to lap time. It provides him with a certain level of comfort being handled and touched all over. Vision-impaired guide dog users rely on touch to maintain grooming, weight management and general health of their canine counterparts. So it’s very important that Caleb allow me to clip his nails, brush his teeth, clean his ears and manhandle him without squirming. He does not seem to mind it at all.
We are also beginning to work on some obedience commands, more to come on that topic. But suffice to say Caleb already walks calmly on a loose leash, responds to his name, sits when asked and waits for his kibble. Not too shabby for a baby pup!
I’d love to answer your questions in future blog posts; please feel free to ask me about puppy raising in the comments section below.