Jockeying for Alpha Dog

Dakota had been progressing. From her early days with us as the most godawful dog imagineable, she had reached a place where she brought us joy and laughter rather than work and frustration.

She’d come a long way from her early days of peeing all over the house, chewing, picking on our other dog, and taking off for the wild blue yonders when outdoors. Dakota is a rescue dog that we adopted from the dog pound when she was seven months old and she was a handful. It took a lot of hard work and dedication to train her. I don’t think many would have committed to Dakota the way we did.

But after two years of hard work, Dakota brought laughter into the house instead of Don’t Kill The Dog sticky notes. Most of her problems had been solved and the ones we were still working on were livable. She was a happy dog. She was also a very strong willed dog, due in part to her lack of early training and in part to her breed which required her to be independent and able to make decisions on her own.

Our other dog, Gypsy Rose, passed away at fifteen years old. We had spent two years intervening between Dakota and Gypsy Rose, one being young and full of spunk and the other being elderly and fragile with age. Dakota tormented Gypsy Rose any chance she got and I never left them unsupervised together, making sure to assert my pack dominance into the fray to make sure Gypsy Rose’s last years were peaceful.

Dakota surprised us by not sniffing around for Gypsy Rose after her passing. Dakota showed no signs of missing her, looking for her, or caring that she was gone. Dakota now had our full attention and she was loving it. She wasn’t designed to be a dog who shared attention. Her competitor was gone and she was happy for about two weeks until she unexpectedly reverted to some of her earlier bad behavior. She’d been doing so well, why was she suddenly being bad?

I’d let her out for potty and she wouldn’t come back in. At first she’d linger just a little longer than usual, then longer and longer until she simply refused to come when called, pointedly blowing me off with her body language. Things came to a head one morning when I was late for work because she decided to gallivant for 45 minutes and I had to revisit some of the training methods I’d used to deal with it before. But the question haunted me… why was she acting up? Why was she suddenly being such a bratty dog? I’d been so proud of her and the progress she’d made with us and now here she was being awful again. Why?

Then it hit me. We’d lost a pack member, a senior member of the pack who’d been in the pack for many years before Dakota joined us. This was Dakota’s perfect opportunity to challenge for Pack Leader and that’s exactly what she was doing. She was challenging me for the role of Leader of the Pack.

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