Sharing daily life with a Golden Retriever pup has proven to be one of the best things I experienced in my life. And at times, also the hardest.
[ This is going to be a long post. If you’re here for the treats, scroll down! ]
In case you don’t know, my parents decided to adopt a Golden Retriever puppy to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Mom had several hunting dogs when she was younger, but our block policy forbid keeping dogs until a few years ago.
So last year my parents visited a bunch of puppy breeders, trying to find “their” Golden Retriever. We found her outside Lodi, and she was bit more than three months old. A cute little thing. Our sweet Molly!
Now, you probably have in mind the classic image of a Golden Retriever: playful, cheerful and always ready to make new friends. Well, this is not our case. Our beautiful, crazy and loving Golden girl is all of the above, but with a very short list of people. Those are the privileged ones she includes in her family tribe. For reference, this extends to my parents, sister, and boyfriend. My sister’s boyfriend isn’t included, poor lad, as he came a few months later her first contact with the family.
Other people, even those with the best intentions, will likely get a bark or be fled with low tail. This happened both if people were visiting us at home or randomly met while walking. I’m not saying I regret choosing her instead of her sister in the first place. I could never picture myself looking after any other Golden Retriever than she.
The thing is, it can be very challenging to deal with a dog if you’re new to it, and things get worse when people assume that said dog will be happy to be pet from strangers, and panics when they do. And you of course have no idea what to do.
It took us quite some time to ease her into the new home, new surroundings, odours, routine and such. At first it was a real pain: we weren’t used understand a dog, and she wasn’t accustomed to our weird habits perhaps. That would be perfectly normal for a newcomer, but when panic attacks didn’t ease out over time and we couldn’t persuade Molly to go any further than our block, we started wondering what was wrong.
It turned out, we were dealing with moderately serious behaviour issues.
Most people would say she’s just shy, or still young – even dog owners, who would tirelessly try to pet her no matter how uncomfortable she looks and acts. By now we learnt to tell those stubborns: watch out, she might bite! The perfect way to make them keep their hands at bay. She won’t bite anyone of course, but sometimes you gotta give right?
Now things have improved considerably: we take long walks, unleash her whenever possible without freaking out, and sit at an outside café table for a coffee. We also watch her play puppy games with her mates, seldom greet another dog on a walk, and even meet humans from time to time.
How would have the six-months Molly behaved in all those situations?
First and foremost, she would’ve panicked. A typical panic show of hers would be extremely low tail, head-flattened ears, and a sudden tug towards the floor, almost crawling. Imagine all this happening when you try to walk your dog just a few inches away your very entrance door, or whenever a new sounds breaks up. Or worse, when someone happens to be walking towards you two, on a sidewalk, with cars racing so that you can’t avoid that person by crossing the road.
The weirdest thing is that she has always loved (I said, loved!) going to the vet. She knows where the clinic is, and always stops at the entrance if we are nearby, looking at me with high hopes in her deep eyes.
After a few months with no improvements we decided it was time to give her a better help, and we hired a behaviour specialist. I’m super grateful we did, because we wouldn’t have been enough on our own. And I firmly believe she wouldn’t be this happy now.
Working with her therapist we learnt to understand her body language, her needs and desires, and how to act ourselves to help her. If you think your furry friend hides some kind of discomfort, please please contact a therapist to figure out. And try to fit an adequate amount of time to do your “homework” in your schedule, so the therapist won’t be just the 10AM appointment on a Saturday morning. If I learnt something out of this, is to never trust common faith and word of mouth. Every dog is a unique, emotional being, and has a unique way to communicate with his/her human.
As dreadful as sometimes our homework felt, I don’t regret walking through muddy fields, under the rain, to take my girl out and create a bond with her. I don’t regret the grass-stained pair of jeans and bruises I earned after a panic attack. Or the sweat drenched shirts I throw to wash every day before changing into clean clothes and then head out to work.
Watching my girl frolicking in a beautiful field, or splashing around in a pond gives me all the feelings. Pride, happiness, warmth, an uncontrollable need to laugh. But also fear, and a sense of loss in a lost corner of my heart.
But hey, she’s only 1.5 years old. We have a plenty of experiences to do together. Lots of balls to be thrown and brought back, lots of swim trials, and lots of mountain walks. Lots of memories to make together, and lots of mutual trust to build.
We have all sorts of rituals, from dad’s slipper as a welcoming gift (or a get-up-play-with-me message), the balcony goodbye when someone drives to work, the after dinner craze, or the longing hazel eyes at the breakfast table, begging for a drop of yogurt or a piece of corncake… A promising starting point, isn’t it?
We love you, Molly.
Now, who’s in for a treat?
If you think about it, most quality snacks or treats for your furry friends are quite pricey for what they are. And it’s very easy to make a pup happy, so why spend tons of money for something you can do yourself, with a bunch of ingredients you always have on hand?
Molly loves apples, peanuts, carrots and banana, like most dogs do. Rolled oats + peanut butter act as a basic canvas, to which you can add whatever flavoring your friend likes – and tolerates! This is super important: make sure to feed your pup only food he/she can stomach. If your furry friend is sensitive to peanuts or oats, I’m afraid you won’t be able to make these treats, although the amount of it is very modest.
If your friend needs to lose some weight, you can sub a fraction of the oats and PB with grated and squeezed zucchini, and bake the teats a little longer.
Please note that these are complementary foods, and you should feed them accordingly to your pet’s dietary needs.
Happy snacking, woof!
An easy, wholesome and tasty treat for your furry friends!
- 140 g rolled oats
- 1 small apple
- 1-2 tbsp natural peanut butter
Pulse oats in a food processor until coarse.
Core and roughly chop the apple. Add the chunks to the blender and process until combined and slightly sticking together. Bring the dough together with peanut butter.
Preheat oven to 150 C. Tip the mixture on a piece of parchment paper, roll to about 4mm thickness and cut out the treats using your favorite cookie cutter.
Bake for 30′, let cool completely and store in a glass jar.
Make sure to use ingredients your pet can eat. Carrots, zucchini and banana are all wonderful alternatives to try!
We like to cut the treats small (approx. the size of a coin), and we feed Molly about three a day, but not every day, as a reward if she performs certain exercises or if she just acts like a good girl.