I have two dogs, one of which is a yellow lab mix named Gus. Typically, yellow labs are seen as the jolly, rotund companions of small suburban families. They enjoy a long play time outside with the kids followed by a coma-like nap in the middle of the floor while snoring loudly.
My dog is not that suburban house dog. Yes, he does enjoy long, inconveniently placed naps in the middle of the room, but he generally acts more like an arrogant frat boy intent on rebelling against any and all authority while also having no consideration for others.
Gus is a rescue dog. He was found wandering around outside a college town in Middle of Nowhere, Georgia, about 6 years ago. My college roommate picked him out at the kennel because he looked so good in the pictures she took with him. When she brought him home and began to train him in dog-basics (sit, stay, etc), his response was less than accommodating. In fact, he seemed to be laughing at her by the way he sat there, back legs laying askew from beneath him, tongue hanging haphazardly out of the side of his mouth and eyeballing anything interesting that walked by. After about six minutes, Gus had enough of the charade. Blatantly ignoring her reprimands, he went to lay in the kitchen by himself.
A few months later, my roommate gave up her responsibilities as dog mom and pawned him off on the next unsuspecting victim, i.e. me. After the terms of the adoption had been arranged and ownership switched, I was soon introduced to “fun” Gus. In the first 4 months of Gus ownership, I had the pleasure of experiencing,
In a wolf pack, there is always an alpha, a pack leader. When you bring a dog into your home, there’s a natural hierarchy already present in the home and your dog has to find out where he fits. Just because you bring a dog into your home doesn’t mean he or she immediately trusts or respects you. Just like humans, trust is earned. To Gus, I was not his alpha... Yet.
Unfortunately for me, Gus is a natural alpha. Being dominant over another alpha is not a feat that is achieved overnight. His opinion of authority was not about him or about me, it was about us and our communication. I had to learn to speak his language. To learn what he needed.
Exercise turned out to be the key helper. You'd be surprised at what a little energy-burning can do to tame your dog! Like any child, Gus needed time to run and play. So, we picked up hiking together. When I gave him the exercise he needed, he wasn’t putting holes in my wall anymore. He wasn’t chewing. He wasn’t jumping into other people’s cars. And he wasn’t peeing on me, which is nice.
Despite the training, the hiking, and the communication, Gus will always be an alpha asshole. Thus, to this day, he will still inconsiderately tromp on his 10 lb pack mate if she is in his way, bodycheck said pack mate if she’s getting more attention from a stranger, interject his face into any conversation of which he feels left out, override his pack mates’ mark on a tuft of grass or small leaf by peeing on it after, gorilla nest in the middle of anything I’m doing on the floor, side eye me when I give him a command without a treat, and inconsiderately mount other dogs at the dog park (yes, Gus is that dog).
But he’s a good boy all the same. He is always up for an adventure, is an incredible snuggler, and he’s obedient and respectful... At least, when he’s had a chance to get his energy out.
We just had to learn to speak the same language.
About the Author: Gracie Kessenich is a writer, adventurer, Mortgage Co. System Administrator, Good Napper Award Winner (heheh), and proud dog-mom of Gus & Lillie. You can find her on Instagram as @obnoxiouspositivity.