Ian and I have been discussing getting another labrador for several months. Our older lab, Luke, is Ian’s dog who is now 13 years old, a wise old senior for a large dog. I had wanted to pick out a pup during the summer, but the timing just wasn’t right for our family.
Luke is still in good health and excellent shape, so when I discovered that a friend from church had a new litter I probed Ian to find out if we could just check them out; I proposed that if we were going to get a pup now would be a good time for Luke. I told myself to not get my hopes up, but that is apparently very difficult for me to do…
After much consideration, discussion, prayer, and seeing the litter twice…We ended up choosing a yellow female, the only one of her litter who was genuinely drawn to us.
She had one other sister who was more anxious around us and Luke. This yellow female, in contrast, was sweet, affectionate, calm, and quiet. Ian had his eye on her from the moment we met the pups.
Though I have never owned a pet before in my life, I knew that integrating a puppy into an established home and family requires time and effort and consistency.
Luke had actually been a very difficult pup for Ian’s family to handle; they had considered giving him away, because he was too wired and rowdy. But with lots of exercise and more discipline, he he became a well behaved, loyal dog.
I knew that to get a pup was to commit myself to the process of raising such a dog.
Labradors are a highly affectionate and energetic breed. They need quality time with their owners and plenty of praise and positive reinforcement. (I think I’m actually very similar to them!) White labs are said to be the most intelligent of their kind and to be the most hyper affectionate. Knowing all of that, from doing my research and reading my Labrador Retriever book, helped prepare me for bringing Molle home…
Despite how absolutely adorable she is, she is in fact a wild canine. As Cesar Millan says, it is first an animal, then a dog, lastly the breed. The first day home, she was quite scared and sedate. I held her for long periods of time to establish trust and security.
By the next day, she was anxious to wonder about the house at will, investigate anything and everything, and start to settle it and us as her own territory. Little did she know that I was wise to her animals instincts…
That is to say, I do not demean her for being an animal and a dog. But she is to be a domesticated inside dog for the family, and as such she must learn her place, just as she would if she were a hunting dog. So, the process of ‘learning her place’ has been a transition and a struggle for all of us. Her tenacity keeps her going strong for some time, well after she’s been corrected firmly and redirected to a more desired behavior. She is not necessarily a naughty dog, she is just discovering the new boundaries and meanings of this new life.
Fortunately, a credit to her breed is that she is incredibly bright and willing. Though she can put up a fight, she can also be tamed reasonably quickly. Besides the usual nipping, digging, yelping, and pottying that puppies do in the early stage, they also exhibit other behaviors that are just plain willfulness.
And in response to that sometimes there has to be swift and strong action to make the will submit; it’s called the “throw down,” though it really isn’t as vicious as it sounds. When Molle is being particularly difficult about having “rules, boundaries, and limitations,” I have to pick her up and put her down – almost in the same move – and hold her head and legs down until she calms (not with too much pressure). In dog terms, this means assertiveness and authority, which she must adhere to as a household canine.
We have made it through our first week of training and communicating, and I am thus far very proud of myself for following the guidelines of friends who have raised excellent dogs and the guidelines of books and famous trainers who understand these animals far better than I do; but I am especially proud of little Molle for being such a trooper and such a sweetheart. She will be a beautiful best friend for many years to come!