Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Who Leads Your Pack?

8 weeks, ears back, still shy-ish

It's a good thing puppies are cute. Otherwise we might not put up with the bad behavior that are part of the first months of a puppy's life. Our family's new dog, Daisy, is three pounds o' love--well, most of the time. We've had her for two weeks and in that time she's settled in and started to develop a personality.

9 weeks
A personality that is sometimes snarly and sent me looking for how-to articles on becoming a pack leader. Dogs are social and live in packs: not herds, not prides, not gaggles even, but packs. Every pack has a leader and dogs instinctively follow their pack leaders. As pack leader, I eat first, I walk through a door first, I assert my will and the dog follows. That's the prevailing theory anyway.  Cesar Millan says so in his book Be a Pack Leader and many other animal writers and trainers agree.

Being Daisy's pack leader does not seem so clear cut. Does she follow me? Yes. Mostly. It depends. She prefers to follow when I am not actually holding the leash. She cries for me when I walk out of her sight and given the option she stays at my heals as I go from kitchen to family room to office to bathroom. Does she look to me for permission? Dogs in a pack wait for a signal from the pack leader before eating or before doing other things. Daisy waits on me to eat, yes, mostly. She’s taken to watching me make her breakfast and dinner. She sits patiently; she doesn’t growl or bark for the food bowl. Those good manners haven’t transferred to how she acts in the yard yet. 
She doesn't ask permission to eat weeds or other tasty morsels she finds outside.

10 weeks, ears up and confident
Good things she’s so cute. I keep reminding myself: she’s just a puppy.She's learning to follow and I am learning to lead.

The pack idea has been in my mind since we brought Daisy home. It reminds me of something Mom used to say: "You're only as good as the people you hang around." I think I started hearing that as a teenager. It wasn't until later that I would live Mom's words. In college, in graduate school, as a beginning teacher and beyond, I learned that hanging around certain folks helped or hurt me. So I chose to hang around the smart people, the nerdy book club types, the readers and artists, the passionate teachers. People who love to learn are part of my pack. Pack matters. 

Who's in yours?