The Need to Dominate

 I have a new puppy, just old enough to leave his mother. Sammy’s all black, a standard poodle, full of fun and mischief. He’s making a surprisingly easy transition from his litter to our family.

He’s such a contrast to our previous dog, Luna. Luna’s fatal flaw was her need to dominate. We never did manage to break her of this bad habit. She’d see another dog and go after it to bring it down. If the other dog rolled  over and submitted, that usually ended the encounter. She wasn’t angry. She just needed to dominate.  She did whatever she needed to do in order to be top dog.

Luna was one year old when we brought her home. She started life in a puppy mill. A woman who just wanted a cute pup for cheap bought her. You can imagine the new owner’s dismay when her cute pup grew into a German Shepherd Dog. By the time we met Luna she was ruling the household. She ate off the dining table, pushed the two little boys out of their beds and generally had positioned herself as the Alpha in her pack. (Dogs are pack animals. That’s what makes them loyal family members.)

You know what happens to children when they realize nobody’s in charge! They become anxious, out-of-control, badly behaved children who refuse to accept the authority of the adults. It’s the same with dogs. The first months with Luna we were spent constantly letting her know the humans were in charge. My body was black and blue from Luna’s nips as she tried to dominate me.

Over the next five years, Luna went from a skin-and-bones, out-of-control, badly behaved dog to a loving, happy, absolutely gorgeous family pet – with a couple of exceptions. In spite of all our efforts, we never fully managed to curb the barking that drove our neighbours crazy and caused us grief.

Her worst flaw and the one that proved her undoing was her need to dominate other dogs. For that reason we never let her off her lead when we went walking. But one day, she managed to jerk the lead out of my hand and went for our neighbour’s gentle, peaceful dog, tearing holes in its side. That was the final straw for Luna. We had her “put down.”

         Back to Sammy the new pup. It’s not by chance that he’s so easy to get along with. He comes from breeders who poured their caring and their knowledge into producing litters of good pups. They care deeply for their dogs and even bring the pups into their home so the pups will grow accustomed to the sounds in a house before going to the new owner. Sammy yelped all the first night, as puppies newly separated from their litter do, but after that he yelps only when he needs to be take out of doors to relieve himself. Sure, he chews on things he shouldn’t and leaves puddles on the floor – but he’s learning fast – and he accepts and trusts us as his guardians.

Sammy’s good start in life is something I’d wish for all dogs – and of course – for all children.

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