Just before Christmas, Elf joined our family.  She was somewhat unplanned, but I had been considering a field bred Golden for quite a while.  I love my hounds and PBGVs will always be my breed, but I also love competitive dogs sports and want the opportunity to be a little more, well, competitive, than the hounds are necessarily up for.  I grew up with Goldens and have worked with sporting dogs throughout my professional career, so a high drive Golden just seemed like the right choice.  When I learned about a litter nearby, I decided to take a look.

When I first met her, Elf was twelve weeks old.  She had been handled a lot and was well on the way to being house trained, but she hadn’t been away from her litter mates.  She quickly showed me that she was brave enough to try everything I asked her to do (like play tug and walk on some new surfaces), and not worried by novelty (like noise and an opening umbrella).  More importantly, she was happy to engage with me and stayed interested the whole time.

The first few days were spent mostly working on housebreaking, which went very easily, integrating into the pack, and learning the household routine.  I also wanted to start leash training and socialization right away, since Elf was already 12 weeks old.  Since coming home on the evening of December 20, Elf has been to Camping World, Petco twice, Godfreys Welcome to Dogdom, my mom’s very crowded Christmas dinner party, Blue Marsh lake, the fairgrounds, 3 agility trials, a barn hunt, Lowe’s twice, and puppy class.  The fact that the weather has been horrifically awful has made this a challenge, but a puppy’s socialization window doesn’t stay open long.  Elf was pretty confident from the beginning, but she’s gotten progressively more comfortable and is able to follow cues and happily work for food and toys in all of these places. Did I mention that Elf works for toys?  This is very exciting and novel for me and 25 years of having to meticulously shape tugging and retrieval that may or may not hold up to distraction in my hounds.

Elf’s training so far has been mostly house manners and the start of Susan Garrett’s Recallers program.  She’s been introduced to both tracking and scent work and has been exposed to some body awareness exercises.  She’s growing fast and her rear end awareness varies from day to day.  She is fitting in well with the other dogs and has good sense about who will play with her and who would like her go away.  I think this will be the start of an exciting journey, but for now I’m taking things slowly and building a strong foundation.

If you would like to follow some of Elf’s early training, I’m posting video regularly on The Clever Hound Facebook page.