Baron is a full bred American Field Labrador Retriever. American Field Labs are taller and lankier than their British counterparts. Even so, he's the tallest lab I've ever seen...and most folks who know Labs would agree. There's more to Mr. Baron that his devastating good looks. He is the sweetest creature on the face of the earth. He adores small children and small animals. At the dog park Baron will take his ball and drop it in front of smaller dogs that seem frightened of him; a gesture of friendship. When our grandchildren squabble he becomes very upset. He barks and puts himself between them as if to say, "can't we all just get along?"
Like any two year old, Baron has tons of energy. We walk him faithfully every morning and evening...rain, snow, or shine. At least twice a week we supplement the walks with swimming, outings to the dog park, or a run in the woods for a real workout. We find that if we don't do this, his energy levels just build and build...which can lead to mischief! In addition, we've spent hours and hours in training with him. If you are going to make a dog live in human society, he has to be given the skills to get along. This means walking nicely on a leash, sitting, staying on command, and just basically having good manners. These niceties will keep him out of trouble with the neighbors, small children, other dogs, and ultimately keep him from winding up on death row in the animal shelter or from getting smashed under the wheels of a car. It is for him, more than for you, that you train him!
Dogs purportedly have the intellect of a toddler with the capability of learning several hundred words. It would be unconscionable to raise a young child without training him or giving him the opportunity to communicate with you. The same goes for dogs. They really want to understand you and are very adept at learning words. So far Baron knows sit, stay, wait, treat, eat, food, heel, back, ball, stick, drink, go, break, come, no, leave it, go for walk, go for ride, lay down, off, down, look, fetch, release, poop, pee, Papa, Mama, and Posie Cat, shake, knuckles, we're done, and go to bed. Most recently I taught him to turn left and right. The way I did this was when we set out for a walk I would walk straight down the driveway without committing (either with my body or verbally) to turn either right or left onto the sidewalk. When we came to the sidewalk I'd say "right" or "left" and then turn in that direction. He soon caught on. At first I wondered if this skill was limited to walking, and if he really understood the meaning of right and left. So we expanded on the concept at the swimming hole. Sometimes when we toss a stick into the water, he'll leap after it, but then lose sight of where it is. When this happens, we yell, "left" or "right" depending upon the location of the stick. When we do this, our Smarty Pants boy-pup invariably swims in the direction that we command and finds his stick! Honestly, he's so smart that sometimes I lie awake wondering what I can teach him next! Algebra?
Bottom line...having a dog is one of the most wonderful things you can do. But I must warn you; as with having children, you must be committed to them for life. If you cannot see yourself exercising your dog daily, providing a safe comfortable environment for them, paying veterinary bills and attending training sessions...don't do it. And for heaven's sake, don't buy a puppy for little Billy for Christmas! How absurd. Is little Billy capable of taking care of a baby? No, you say? Then he's not capable of taking care of a puppy. Period. Just know that that puppy is YOURS, your responsibility and yours to take care of. Little Billy will enjoy playing with him, much as he enjoys playing with his baby sister...but you must not make him ultimately responsible for the welfare of a dog. It's not reasonable or fair to either the child or the pet.
That said; when you're willing to take the plunge; and if you want a big, goofy, loveable family dog, get a Lab. They are angels...angels with an insatiable desire for goodies!
Quicks Draw and Babba Louie...'sallright!'