Reluctant Leader

Four and a half years ago when Kloe joined the pack Kali was seven and took an almost immediate role as surrogate mother to Kloe. To this day I am grateful that Kali’s maternal instincts activated almost immediately upon meeting Kloe as a nine-week old puppy. Within about an hour Kali went from the the “no way that puppy is coming in my house” stage to the “Ok little whippersnapper, I’ll show ya’ the ropes” stage. Within an hour Kloe was laying on a willing mommy Kali’s tummy and the bond grew stronger each day.

As The months passed Kloe grew in size. By the time she was six months old Kloe was already as big as Kali – 60 pounds – and much taller. By the time Kloe was 9 months old she was 80 pounds. During play Kloe would sometimes use her size advantage over Kali. But it was never aggressive and it was never in any effort to establish herself as the dominant or alpha female. It was more of a “if you’ve got it flaunt it” demeanor and only occasionally did I have to come to Kali’s aid as she got older and a little more fragile.

Kloe 9 months, Kali 8 years

Enter Koda two years ago. She joined the pack at four months and was full of energy piss and vinegar; she still is. Koda at four months old was 17 pounds. Kloe now two and a half was still around 80. Koda’s moxie was remarkable. She played hard often bouncing off of Kloe during rough play but getting right back up again and never backing down. I occasionally had to come to Kloe’s aid and protect her against her tough little sister! I recall thinking that by the time Koda was six months old she would establish herself as the alpha female.

Koda and Kloe

Kali, now nine, was slowing down and she never really had any interest in being in charge; unless it was in charge of food. Looking back Kloe was too young to be a surrogate mother to Koda like Kali was to her. I thought Kloe would be that surrogate but at just two and a half she was still very much a pup herself. So I began thinking that Koda was going to be the leader of this pack. From day one, and to this day, Koda always pushes herself to the front of the line (first out the door and first back in), steals toys from her older and bigger sisters, and makes her voice heard above all others. She vocalizes like no other dog I’ve ever been around. I’ve said it before, if she could actually talk her vocabulary would make Jon Gruden blush.

So yeah, Koda as the alpha. Made sense then and it still kind of does. But she’s not the Alpha. She wants Kloe to be the alpha dog but Kloe is a reluctant leader.

Kloe is a gentle soul (except when she see’s a cat). She really has no interest in being in charge. She has aways been a rule follower. Most dogs want to please their human mom and dad. Kloe takes this very seriously and if she could intellectualize it she would tell you that her sole purpose in life is to make Holly and I happy. Koda tends to get excited out of control at times. During those times we have to very direct with Koda and put her in a sit or down position to help her calm down. Kloe can be in a different room but if she hears one of us sternly tell Koda “SIT!” Kloe sits. If we say “Koda settle. DOWN!” Kloe immediately puts herself in a down position. So yeah, beyond all else she wants to please us.

Koda wants Kloe to be Alpha. In spite of Koda’s pushiness she looks to Kloe for her cues. If there is a deer or some other critter outside she runs to the door and looks back at Kloe as if to say, “should we go out and get that critter”? If I suggest that the girls go outside by opening the door Koda, of course, is first out. But if Kloe doesn’t follow Koda turns around and comes back in the house. And when Kloe sees or smells trouble in or around the property and runs off barking Koda follows her even though she – most of the time – has no idea what’s going on. But if her big sister is going she’s going to provide back up.

Koda wants Kloe to be Alpha. And while over times I have seen glimpses of it in Kloe it is with reluctance that she takes a leadership role in the pack. She is the logical choice. At almost five years Kloe is in her prime. She is all muscle. Her legs are fully repaired (thank God) from her Bi-lateral TPLO in August of 2019, and she once again runs like a gazelle. She is a sight to behold when “she is on the move”.

Fortunately (for us and them) our girls are spoiled to the max and there really is no need for an alpha dog. In the wild, Kali at 11 years with very bad hips and legs, would need a protector. Koda would need an alpha dog to dampen her “enthusiasm” when predators much bigger than her came calling. Kloe would be that logical choice. Would her gentle soul allow her to be that Alpha dog if it was necessary?

I’d like to think that Kloe would step up to the role and protect her sisters even if reluctantly. I also know that if she did, and when all was once again well with the pack, she would come looking for Holly and I to please us with her gentle demeanor and by doing whatever we asked of her.

Sweet Gentle Kloe

Leader Of Our Pack

For two and a half years Kloe was the “baby”.   The youngest of two pups in the house.  As  she grew from 16 to 80 pounds she remained the baby in the overall pecking order of the pack.  Kali welcomed and embraced Kloe from the start and played a big role in Kloe’s successful assimilation into the pack.  Kloe looked up to her big sister and would run to her when scared, cuddle with her when sleepy or cold, and was always subservient to her Kali, although Kali only showed love and never any attempt to dominate or control Kloe.

Golden’s Retriever’s are a breed that retain a puppy-like personality for a long time.  Many never totally lose the playful and whimsical demeanor that puppies exhibit.     With the recent arrival of the new “baby” Koda it’s been interesting to watch Kloe quickly evolve into a more senior member of the pack.  An adult member of the pack.  In fact Kloe has become the protector of the Golden K Pack.

Besides there being a puppy in the house there is another dynamic that is contributing to this emerging maturity in Kloe.   Kali, once very vibrant and alert, is aging.   At nine and a half she sleeps most of the day and has lost some of her vibrance.  The sparkle in her eyes is fading. She walks slower often needing to be coaxed along the way when out for our short excursions.

Although there has never been an true four-legged alpha in our pack if there was one Kloe would be it.   Kali is old and slowing.  Koda is young and immature. At 80 pounds Kloe is large for a Female Golden retriever.  She is bigger, stronger, faster, more alert, and has keener senses than Kali and Koda.  It seems to me that she instinctively realizes this especially now within the context of living with a smaller puppy and a weaker senior. This is not to say that Kloe does, or has any interest in, physically dominating either of her sisters. Although she does seem to take some pleasure of throwing Koda down on the ground or wrapping her entire jaw around Koda’s head when Koda doesn’t get “the message” that enough is enough…  But that’s another subject and post about “Kloe the Teacher” for another day.

So now Kloe is the protector.   Where Kali once took the lead in calling out perceived danger or intruders Kloe takes the lead.   I see Kloe alert and viggilent at times outside while her sisters sleep in the sun.  If there’s a need to sound the alarm she does so and leads the charge running while her muscles ripple through her body like a thoroughbred horse.  Kali hangs back offering high pitched barks of encouragement and Koda bounces along side of Kloe trying keep up not really knowing what’s happening or where they’re going.

Maybe it’s just me projecting but in Kloe I see a more mature and wiser dog.  Kloe will always have a fun and spirited side to her.  She will always go to Kloeville; that figurative place when she lies on her back and stares up at nothing in particular.  She will always throw her shoulder on the ground and wriggle her way between my legs with her butt up in the air and then roll on her back and push off with her legs doing her version of the doggie-back-stroke.  But there has been a change.

It seems to me that Kloe now realizes that her stature in the pack is different.  She realizes that there are two weaker members of the pack that make her stand out physically and in some ways mentally.  Kloe relates to Holly and I in different ways now that Koda is here.  If Kloe observes Koda doing something that is not allowed Kloe looks to Holly or I to correct her.  As much as Koda tries to engage Kali in play Kali has no interest in rough housing with her and if engaged tries to get out of the fray.  Recently I watched that dynamic unfold when Kali became annoyed after Koda ran to her and jumped on her head trying to play.  Kloe came running over put herself between Koda and Kali and wrapped her jaw around Koda’s leg to move her way from Kali as if to say, “leave it”.

In some ways it’s sad to see my “little” baby Kloe grow up into adult hood.  But it’s also warming and makes me proud to watch that 16 pound nine-week old pup we brought home two and a half years ago mature into a fine young lady.  And  lately I’m sure I see something different in Kloe’s eyes. I see less wonderment of the world around her and more of a familiarity with that world and her role in it as a leader of our pack.

 

I stand corrected.

I urged the original poster who was looking for advice to ignore the wrestle-mania advice of this so called and self-professed professional wrestler trainer.   Within moments another comment  from wrestle-mania central was directed at me telling me that I knew nothing about dog training and that the method they described was decades old and highly effective.

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