Velvet curled up on Mike's jacketIt has been a while since I updated Velvet's progress. The last five weeks have been an amazing period of growth, learning, and bonding. There have been a few very trying moments as well. Clearly the reason God makes puppies so cute is so that you don't strangle them before they grow up and become well behaved family members. She has been very bratty at times in the last couple of weeks, but has made some momentous strides as well.

I mentioned in my last post about Velvet that I was making her puppy food. This was turning into a monumental undertaking as I had to make a batch of food for a week and freeze half, or make it twice a week. At the rate she was eating and growing, it quickly became too much. I think it was the right choice at the time because she was underweight and needed to catch up.

Her ten-week visit at the vet for her second round of puppy shots and puppy checkup went well. We discovered that she has a tiny hernia that may or may not need repair. As we talked to the doctor, he asked us about the homemade food and I told him about my nutrient spreadsheet and... long story short, he suggested we put her back on commercial food.

Back to researching puppy food. I finally decided on a grain-free brand, but also decided to supplement that with some extra protein and fat. It isn't cheap, but she is doing fine on it and I don't have to calculate nutrient requirements or calories anymore.

Speaking of Calories...

Side by side pictures of Mike holding Velvet at 6 weeks and 15 weeks.

Puppies have an amazing metabolism that allows them to grow at a phenomenal rate. They can burn as many calories as an adult human 10 times their weight.

At 10 weeks and weighing twenty pounds, a pup that will reach 70-90 pounds when an adult requires 1200-2400 calories per day. Velvet-Lady has gone from about 1500 calories per day at 10 weeks (21 pounds) to an amazing 3500 calories per day at 14 weeks and it shows.

Many mornings we open her crate and she comes out looking taller, longer, bigger, but not fat. And no wonder! In just 28 days, she has gone from 21 pounds to 35. That is one-half pound per day. We had another vet appointment this morning for a third round of shots and another checkup. She got a clean bill of health and the vet and technician both said her weight is about right. She is neither fat or skinny, has a little chubby puppy belly and you can feel, but not see, her ribs.

Healthy and Active

Velvet laying in Mike's office chair.All those calories are potential energy just waiting for the chance to turn into kinetic energy, and there is no doubt she has plenty of energy. Just watching her can be exhausting. We go for walks and when we return, it is me who is tired, not her. We've been exploring the neighborhood together and discovering rabbit trails, squirrel trees, and other dogs.

Often we play fetch in the house and other games, like... catch the puppy with the toilet paper roll. Oh sure we meant that for a toy, that's why we left the bag sit on the floor in the closet with the door open. Even more fun is chase the puppy with the shoe in her mouth.

She has the art of keeping the dining table between you and her down to a science. And if you team up so Mama approaches from one side, and me from the other, she makes a mad dash for the hallway and office to hide under my desk. That turns into end of game, but she quickly finds another to keep us occupied.

House Training

Velvet outside with snow on her noseVelvet knows the puppy office is outside and the past two weeks have been nearly free of puppy accidents. In fact, we are quite proud of her progress in this aspect of her training. She lets us know it is time to go and gets very bossy if we don't notice right away. She wants to be a good girl. So three accidents, mainly our fault, in the past two weeks and none of them puddles on the carpet. Very good news indeed.

On the other hand, we started off taking her out the front door and that is what she has learned. As spring approaches, we will make a change for the backyard in most cases. We live in a raised ranch so there are steps front and back to go outside, so either way, it's steps. Now that she has much better control, we can start teaching the back door and that won't take long.


Velvet in snow up to her belly after a snowstorm.Velvet's formal training begins now. She is fifteen weeks old and is capable of learning new things and applying them. We will begin with basic obedience on a leash. Sit. Stay. Come. These are things she already knows, but doesn't realize they are not optional concepts. Next we will add heel and down to those commands. In a few months, stay and down will have almost the same meaning.

Labradors are working breeds. They were bred for water work which means retrieving game in the water. Institutionally, this is natural for these dog breeds and teaching her these things doesn't just apply to hunting, but gives her the tools to be the type of dog she was bred to be. She will love spending hours in the water chasing dummies, sticks, and balls, or even the odd item dropped off the dock at the family cabin.

In particular, labs are adept at diving. Their webbed toes give them an extra boost in the water that helps them overcome the natural buoyancy of hair and body construction. Willy could dive down six feet that I know of, and possibly deeper, to grab something on the bottom of the lake and bring it back. I didn't have to teach him that, he knew how to do it on his own. It is a natural part of being a water dog.

Willy leaping off the dock, swimming before he's fully in the water.These dogs love water and love to retrieve. Good training only adds to their enjoyment. You toss the dummy. Tense, every muscle quivering, she watches where it lands and waits. You can almost hear her voice.

"There it is. Oh boy oh boy oh boy I'm gonna get it. In the water and go go go. Say it Mike, say it. Say it now!"

And that tiny whimper tells you all, that she is ready and waiting and oh so eager.


And the lunge off the dock. Front legs stretched way out front, back legs stretched out back. Even from a dock eight feet off the water, her head won't go under as forward momentum is put to use when all four legs start swimming at the same moment she hits the water.

Every ounce of her being is put into the swim out and again in the swim back. She swims as fast as she can to get back as soon as possible so she can do it again and again and again until she is worn out and you stop just because you don't want her to get in trouble out there, because she'll keep doing it as long as you let her.

But I digress with dreams of future trips to the water...

It is winter and too cold, even with 40 degree days, to take a puppy to the water. Velvet and I will have to wait until May to dip her toes and find out if she is truly a water dog.

Velvet sleeping under the curtains on the heat vent.

I leave you with one last "cute" picture, because the "lil bit" isn't so little anymore. They grow up too fast.

Here's Velvet under the curtains sleeping on the furnace vent. She was worn out from playing "keep-away" with the toilet paper roll she stole claimed. Note the scrap of paper in the lower left.

One thing for certain, puppies love to chew paper and shred it up into smaller and smaller pieces.

A true story by MJ Logan