Yellow Labrador Retriever at 10 Months

July 28th, 2007

The “pup” is a now a 75 pound package of unbridled energy.  His personality is really coming through, and I’m very pleased that he’s such a good companion.  He has a mischievious streak… he loves to “retrieve” almost anything, whether inside the house or out!  He loves nothing better than finding a stuffed toy or shoe, or even a dish towel.  He walks up with his prize in his mouth, beaming with pride at what he’s found.  I tell him “Oh, thank you!” and he turns his head, not wanting to relinquish his new toy.  So I try to channel his energy outdoors… he loves chasing a tennis ball, and bringing it back to be thrown again and again.  This morning we walked around the fields and he put his nose to work.  He loves to swim as well, and will retrieve almost anything across the pond.  He actually tried “leaping” through the water towards a training duck… and finally settled down to swim steadily when he found it didn’t make him go any faster.  He also has the most intense stare… he doesn’t bark or whine, unless he really needs something like water, or to go outside.  Then it’s just a slight whimper.  Sometimes he awakes earlier than I do and is really hungry… I’ll hear a little high pitched “Aarrf!” and know he’s ready for breakfast.  Perhaps all Labradors are like this one… I don’t really know.  But I do know he’s one of the most gentle and good-hearted dogs I’ve ever been around. 

Yellow Labrador Retriever at 10 months

Pond Swimming, Swallows and Turtles

May 16th, 2007

A day spent cutting grass… after yesterday’s rain a cool front came through so the opportunity was perfect to get more things done outdoors.  But there was time to see the sights and take the dog swimming for a few retrieves.  He loves the water now and dives in with abandon.  I threw the orange bumper way out in the pond today and he swam for it… but missed it and swam in circles several times!  He almost swam across the pond, but came back at my call and finally saw the bumper floating in the distance.  He was ready for more when he finished.  

 Yellow Labrador Retriever swims for the training bumper.

We have a pair of Barn Swallows that migrate to South America and back and return each year in mid-April.  In May they begin to nest… using the same nest each year above the garage on top of some outdoor lights.  I don’t know how many years they’ve been coming, but it’s at least 5 or 6 years now.  Once they begin nesting they become a little pesky and swoop at you when you stand too near the nest. But their flight is beautiful to watch and they eat many insects each day.  Last week there were five barn swallows all flying around the garage area… I’d like to think they were last year’s young birds returning to say hello.  In some places they can become a problem, with many birds building nests.  But we’ve only had one pair and that’s just fine with me!

 Barn Swallow perched on roof while watching the nest.

The Barn Swallow nest above the garage.

We have several turtles in the pond, but I’m not really sure of the species.  Missouri has quite a few different turtle species if you want to see them here.  We did see a Snapping Turtle last year, walking through the grass to look for a place to lay eggs.  The turtle in this picture is about 10-12 inches long, and probably a Slider or Missouri Slider, especially with the small indentation in the side of the shell at the rear.  I took the photo from a distance with the telephoto lens… when you walk anywhere near them, they slide quickly back into the water.

A pond turtle basking in the sun on a stump.

Yellow Labrador at 8 Months

May 9th, 2007

The pup is really growing up now… he’s been going through an independent phase, but the training is working.  A little more each day I find his responsiveness to commands is increasing.   He is so eager to please, so enthusiastic, and so… vibrant in his zest for life.  The only thing he really lacks is a quality field trainer!!!  I believe he could do amazing things if I was more knowledgeable… today he stayed while I threw multiple “marks” or floating bumpers in the pond.  I sent him for the first and without hesitation he dove right in, brought it back, then I sent him for the second and he brought it back.  I threw one half-way across the pond… probably 50 yards out, and he swam out and back with confidence.  I’m enjoying the time with him, and I hope to train him more effectively in the next few months.  Many duck hunters would be using electric collars, live birds and many more tools to achieve a quality hunting retriever.  I really don’t want to use the electric collar… he has a gentle temperament and somehow I think we would lose something.  Many dogs can be very stubborn and refuse to learn or train, but thus far he is eager to learn at each step.  We’ll keep training and trying new things.  He may not become an extroardinary hunting retriever, and that’s okay.  Somehow we’ll figure things out along the way.

Yellow Labrador Retriever at 8 months © Fox Haven Media 2007

Yellow Lab is Growing Up

March 19th, 2007

The Pup is almost 6 months old… he’s getting big!  He’s a charming one to be sure… great temperament and a fun-loving nature.  We are still training for retrieves, yet not as much as I would like.  He finished his first obedience class with flying colors.  Now we’re working on refining that including heeling better.  He is still teething somewhat and loves to chew. But I see a glimmer of hope that he won’t eat everything he sees… he is calming down ever so slightly from puppyhood.  I’m more concerned that he’ll eat something to hurt himself or make him sick!  I am amazed at his energy, and try to allow him the chance to run and play outside as well as walking and training.  He’s not swimming yet, but loves to play in the shallow water of the pond.  I will probably need to get in there with him in a couple months… he can be tentative at times.  He didn’t want to go up or down stairs until about a month ago.  He does so just fine now, but prefers that I lead the way.  He rides in the car very well and doesn’t bark at all.  The only time he ever whines is to let us know he needs out, or he’s really hungry!  I’ll be traveling next week and will miss him and the family!  I’ll be curious how he responds when I return… I’ve been his primary trainer and companion for these six months. 

Sleeping quietly on a deck in the warm March sun when visiting “Meemaw”!

Yellow Labrador Retriever, sleeping at 6 months

And who’s that in bed for story time?  I think he loves it up there…

Yellow Lab in bed for story time


Yellow Lab Pup… 5 Months old!

February 25th, 2007

Hard to believe the “little guy” is almost 5  months old now… he grows so fast!  Our training is going well, although the wet winter weather has dampened my enthusiasm a bit (not his of course!).  We get outside almost every day, and still practice obedience and retrieves.  As soon as it warms up I will try to get him in the water.  I really think he’s “a natural” when it comes to retrieving and training… the only problems are with my consistency which I’m finding is the hardest thing to maintain.  If nothing else, I try to do a little bit each day and hold him accountable for what he does know.  I find that reinforcing his prior training pays dividends toward what he learns next.  Perhaps that’s true with all of us!   Think I’ll look for some professional training opportunities as well. What a wonderful dog he is…  here’s a picture from a couple days ago.

Yellow Labrador Retriever © Fox Haven Media

The Shiba Inu

February 23rd, 2007

A little more than four years ago we brought our Shiba Inu home.  I stopped by a little Japanese pet shop in Zushi, Japan one afternoon.  I say little… the shop was no bigger than a small kitchen.  The sales person didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak Japanese, but as I walked a short circle around the displays I saw a few small cages along the window.  I think there were three dogs available… and one, a little fuzzy teddy bear, kept staring at me.

I looked away and walked around again (it didn’t take very long)… and then I peeked around the corner and that pup was still sitting quietly and staring at me!   And I mean really staring… wherever I walked he followed me with an imperturbable gaze that was somewhat disquieting.

 “Hmmm…” I chuckled, “Maybe he’s never seen an American before…” So I left the store then, realizing if I didn’t I would be tempted to get a closer look at this furry creature.

(This is one of my favorite pictures… taken in 2007.  It shows his poise and enthusiasm for life… he is 4 years old in the picture.)

The Shiba Inu

Later I mentioned my visit to the pet store at home, and that Christmas was coming up… maybe we could get a puppy and the two-year old would enjoy him?  This was met with ambivalence, but we decided we would go look at him the next chance we had.

I thought I would try never to buy a dog from a pet store, but after some research I found that in Japan they consider it an honorable and proper way to find a family pet. When you consider and personally see the population density in Japan, it makes much more sense as well.

The Shiba Inu is in fact a royal dog in Japan, and a popular choice for a pet… with ancestry going back centuries. The Shiba is related to the Akita, but much smaller.

I digress… once in the store again, (yes, the dog stared intently at me again!)  we asked to take a closer look at the little guy and, like many pet shop stories, it was hard to resist the little ball of fur in your arms and we decided to bring him home.   The salesperson smiled and was very helpful, even if we didn’t understand each other.   She pointed to the right food and gave us some toys to take home for him. 

Alas, that little pup’s gaze won me over.   He was adorable, fuzzy, full of energy and… oh my goodness a little tasmanian devil!   We later realized a Shiba is not quite the “puppy” a little boy should have for a first dog.   He was a great little dog, don’t get me wrong.  But he has a single-mindedness about him that doesn’t care what anyone thinks about his interests.

Our little shiba doesn’t realize he’s barely 30 pounds… he will stare down and wrestle with the biggest dog in the pack.   He considers himself the “alpha” of the family… it’s just his nature.   He is fastidious and clean, chooses carefully “where” to do his business, and doesn’t grab treats or eat food with any measure of enthusiasm.

In that regard he is like a cat.  You can danglethe meatiest, juciest bone or morsel, and he will slowly smell it… take it (if he wants it) in his mouth and walk slowly away… dropping it to the ground as if deciding whether the time is right.   Yet he does have a fondness for seafood… perhaps his early Japanese upbringing?  He’ll eat shrimp more quickly than any other food.

Does that fuzzy little dog shed? Well, it’s more like he “explodes” once or twice a year… lately he’s had a very thick coat of fur and will keep that until late spring. Then his fur will come out in huge clumps until he looks more like a skinny fox.

Is he trainable? Perhaps with a better trainer! He can sit and come… when he wants to. He loves to run, and for that reason we have a buried groundwire “pet fence” that gives him the freedom to run on almost three acres around the house. At our previous home he would get out at times and run, run, run… I would spend an hour sometimes trying to catch him!

For that reason, the Shiba needs to be inside a home, or in a fenced yard. When he first wore the electric collar on our property he tried repeatedly to push the boundaries of the fence and got a little harmless “zap” as he did so (with a vocal “yip!” as he turned quickly around). He even ran straight through a few times at first, with a little yelp, and kept running… but now he is settled here.

That pet fence isn’t working anymore.  The wires are brokern, and the little shiba has settled down.   Often we didn’t even put the collar on him and he would  stay around the house… walking up within 10 feet of the boundary as he has learned the “invisible” limits of his domain. He has a regular collar, tag and microchip in case he gets lost. I would be more worried that someone might think he’s a fox or coyote and try to shoot him. He loves to “hunt” and chase after rabbits, moles and whatever else he finds.

Our Shiba mostly ignores the cats, and plays mercilessly with the Basset Hound, niping his tail and trying to get him to play. He doesn’t bite normally, but if scared, hurt or threatened, he will react first with his teeth and ask questions later. I think they are defensive in that regard, so I probably wouldn’t recommend the Shiba in a house with small children unless kept separately and/or watched carefully. A good Labrador Retriever as a family pet can be pulled, pushed, wrestled and hugged repeatedly, even enjoying the attention… but I think the Shiba needs more “personal space”. That’s just the way they are. But with older kids and adults they are terrific.

He does love attention and enjoys climbing in my lap and being petted, and he loves to play… the new Labrador pup would run and wrestles with him for hours if I let him. But the Shiba lets the puppy know exactly who is the boss! One of the really strange traits they have is they are sensitive about their feet. If you step on their foot, or when clipping nails get too close to the “quick” or even squeeze their foot too hard, they will let out a crying wail like you’ve never heard. Inside a house your neighbors would think a child is screaming! That’s the only time we’ve heard him make that sound… so we try to be nice to his feet!

I took this picture yesterday as the Shiba was rolling in the grass and “yowling” in a playful manner.

Playful Shiba Inu

That’s all I know about the breed, but from personal experience they are amazing and unique animals. I would describe them as having boundless energy, rampant independence and a carefree enjoyment of the outdoors. That’s our Shiba, Kuma… and he shows all of those traits and more.   If you ever get one, be ready for a dog who thinks the world revolves around him… yet who is also very lovable and wants to be part of the family!

Labrador Puppy Training!

January 9th, 2007

The Beau of Fox Haven (my psuedonym!) is the most recent member of the family- a beautiful Yellow Labrador Retriever.  He is now 14 weeks, and doing wonderfully.  One of my many dreams since childhood, many realized, some forgotten- was to have a Lab as a companion.  More specifically that dream included training the pup as a working retriever, including duck hunting. 

I have found the training to be as challenging as anything I have ever done, both in terms of time and the patience and discipline to be consistent.  I have tremendous respect for those who have the skill and motivation to be successful with training animals.  So much have we learned together during this process, and I must admit the pup is learning despite my shortcomings! 

© Fox Haven Media

What a gift to have such a wonderful animal be a part of our lives. His temperament is tremendous, and his energy is boundless as most other Labrador owners will attest.  It is hard to say how his training will evolve, and to what end. I suspect any limitations in his achievements will reflect the limitations of my own ability to work with him, and to that end we are starting a puppy class next week.  He shows tremendous promise, so perhaps we will also join a local retriever club and see what the future holds!