The Farmer has surpassed me as the alpha in this pack. How did it happen?
I’m the one who gets up in the wee hours of the morning to let the Ferg out for his morning constitutional. I’m the one who feeds, bathes and plays with the dog. It’s me who … wait a minute. I’ve been trained by a puppy. He has me scheduled and orders me to do his bidding with a simple whine. The Farmer doesn’t respond to such prompts. He’s deaf in one ear.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened but at some point, the Farmer managed to usurp the title of Leader of the Pack. Fergus has decided that his word trumps mine, every time.
“Bed time, Fergus.” Dog ignores woman, looks at man, curls up on man’s feet in front of TV.
“Get off that couch, Fergus.” Dog just rolls his eyes at me. The Farmer shows up at the door and dog bolts off couch and onto floor, begins innocently licking his paw as if he were there all along.
I’ve read Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis. I know how this works. Mama’s got to get her alpha groove back.
Dog trainers say you have to exert your authority and maintain it from the beginning. I thought I did all the right things but I must have slipped up at some point. Perhaps I got down on the floor and let the puppy slobber all over me too much. The Farmer doesn’t do that.
I decided to do some research.
Dog experts on the web say you must first train a pup to sit, come and stay. You can use dog treats to reinforce this. You have to teach them their name and to follow alongside you on a leash. You’re not supposed to let the dog run ahead and pull you on a walk. Hmm. Clearly we have some retraining to do.
Even when walking through a doorway in a house, you’re supposed to make the dog come back and follow you. He’s not supposed to lead in any circumstances. Humans first in all cases. And if he jumps up from excitement when you come home, you’re supposed to ignore his bad behaviour until he’s calm. You aren’t supposed to yell at him to get down. That one is going to be the most difficult to teach, I think. Mostly because it drives me nuts when he jumps up on me.
At least we’ve managed to keep Fergus off our bed. He tries but has yet to succeed in launching himself onto the bed when we’re lounging. I realize I have only a short window of opportunity to reclaim my alpha status and get him trained to stay off any of our special furniture before he’s suddenly big enough to get up there.
If we aren’t careful, we could one day wake up to realize that we’ve lost one-third of our king-size bed to a large, hairy mutt. I’ve heard stories from other dog owners about slobber on their pillow and sleep interrupted by canine snoring. I have enough trouble getting a good night’s sleep. I’m going to avoid this catastrophe at all costs.
Fergus, a golden retriever, is very smart. So at least we have that going for us. I swear he’s already learned that scratching on the door is neither allowed nor necessary. He knocks on the door once to be let back into the house. From the inside, he just sits at the door quietly until we notice and let him out. If we’re distracted, he whines. I might have even suggested he use his voice once or twice when he tried to scratch the door. In some way, he understands me.
The other thing we’re learning about goldens is they really like to be in the same room with their people. We barricade him from the room where we’re eating or cooking but he sits just outside the gate. When allowed in, it’s the people he wants to see more than the food.
It’s a good thing I gave up on my vegetable garden because I clearly need to spend less time weeding ungrateful plants and more time training the dog.
Troy Media columnist Diana Fisher is a freelance writer living on a 200-acre farm along the Kemptville Creek in Oxford Mills, Ont.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.