I LOVE 10 months.
At 10 months, Tess LIKES playing with me. Actually SEEKS attention in an appropriate manner. Keeps half an eye on me even when she's DISTRACTED. Is physically MATURE enough to be a lot fun - hiking, running, biking, tricks that require muscle strength ( don't worry - we aren't over doing any of these activities). Sees ME as the source of all things fun. WANTS to please me.
I'm torn between wanting to say:
1. my hard work over the last 8 months is finally paying off.....
2. she's finally mature enough at 10 months that the most recent training has finally sunk in (and all those hours in the last 8 months didn't make a damn bit of difference)....
3. I've finally turned into a competent trainer (only took 8 months....) that can finally be effective with Tess.
Probably a combination of the 3.
Whatever the magic of 10 months, it seems I'm not the only one to experience the miracle. I've been told over and over that (in dogs of this medium size - obviously doesn't apply to really big dogs!), 10 months is when it starts being REALLY fun. It's like this switch in their brain turns on and they become these thinking beings that are capable of being companions and partners, instead of just really cute puppies that can do a few tricks.
Tess is still bold and independent, but I matter to her now and she's not as likely to wander afar. She recently went through her second fear period, and while she's still unafraid and confident, I've noticed that she came out of it more like an adult and less like a puppy. She doesn't always greet people with unadulterated delight, she has a smidgeon of self of control when it comes to birds, and only goes into "puppy zoomies" if under a large amount of stress.
For those of you with young puppies, or not so-young-puppies....DON'T GIVE UP! It gets better. I promise. Even if you puppy is willful, stubborn, and seems to have their own agenda :). The time and effort you put into them now WILL pay off. Don't get me wrong - I loved Tess-the-puppy every step of the way - she was endearing even when doing something especially naughty and she enriched my life in too many ways to count.....but I did wonder whether I would ever get that dog that could go off leash on a trail, or that I could trust in the house without constant supervision. It seems like puppies grow up in leaps and bounds - not necessarily in an ordered progression.
I love my puppy, but I have a feeling I'm going to love my dog even more.....that may be a good thing since puppyhood lasts a year and I'll have the dog 10-15 years!