Big Boy’s arrival stirs up household

Since we brought Brady, our 10-year-old golden retriever, home from the rescue at the end of September, it’s been funny to watch how the dynamics in our house have been changing with the other pets.

Rio, our 19-month-old, white German shepherd, is by far the most energetic, sometimes obnoxiously dominant dog in the pack.

Mabel, Hope and Chase are older and don’t have the energy or gumption to want to try and show her up.

They are all quite happy to just have a soft spot to lay, a good meal twice a day and plenty of treats. They pretty much let Rio run the roost and “put up” with her rambunctious behavior, attempts to play and her face-biting antics (a sure GSD trait).

That is until Brady came to live with us. Brady is the consummate gentleman. He’s old and full of arthritis. His gait is off-kilter and he’s a giant dog for a golden retriever.

Ray, my husband, insists he has remnants of St. Bernard in his lineage somewhere and is determined to do a DNA test on him soon.

As gentle as he is, and as much as he avoids playtime or confrontation of any kind, his enormous size has come to dominate the pack in more of a silent way.

Everyone accepted Brady right away except Rio who was a bit unsure of his presence but soon joined along in the welcoming party.

However, he is so much bigger than Rio and her personality that she tends to concede to him and shows somewhat of a less aggressive behavior when he’s within sight.

Don’t get me wrong, there is not an aggressive bone in Brady’s old, creaky body. He’s happiest if he’s lying at someone’s feet, stretched out on a soft rug. It’s just seems that his huge stature alone is enough to curtail Rio’s more rowdy antics although the longer he’s with us, the more playful she’s starting to become again, often roughhousing the other dogs when she’s too close to Brady, which I fear because he’s so uncertain on his feet.

People often ask how I integrate other dogs into our pack as often as I do. To be honest, I feel I’ve been very fortunate. I am careful to watch and gauge the personalities, ages, sexes and breeds that I introduce at a specific time.

There is no guarantee that all the dogs will get along all of the time. We’ve had several problems with our 45-pound middle-aged mixed breed Hope, who has now twice attacked our oldest dog, Mabel with what seemed like no provocation.

That’s a whole other story and article that we have to deal with. But, aside from those incidents, I feel quite blessed to have been able to integrate so many rescues into our home at the same time.

I admit that many, many years ago, I used to give pets more of a human quality but over the years I have come to acknowledge that no matter how human I wish my pets were at times, dogs are dogs are dogs. And, cats, are cats, are cats. It’s that plain and simple.

It’s imperative to remember that a dog will behave like a dog in any given situation and it’s up to us not to try and humanize them.

There will be dominance issues. However, you as the human, should always remain the alpha of the entire pack. Rio sometimes tests us and tries to show her dominance over the crew.

Despite that, we are steadfast in our actions to show her we are the alpha.

That’s why it was so important to take her to puppy obedience classes with instructor Linda when she was only a few months old. I knew we were going to have a big, strong, dominant dog on our hands and I needed to gain as much “Alpha-ism” as I could over her as soon as I could. I can’t say enough about obedience classes for dogs, which are really directed at training us humans but they are worth their weight in gold!

As big and obnoxious and full of energy Rio can be at times, she does listen and is as smart as a whip. She has never forgotten her commands, and although she is still young and sometimes tests us, she is a well-behaved dog when it comes to commands.

I hope Brady’s presence continues to stifle her domineering ways because it’s been quite a reprieve around the house since his arrival. Perhaps some of that behavior on her part is jealousy but she’s acclimating just fine to our new arrival and not acting out except for acting a bit calmer around the ‘biggie boy’ as we’ve nicknamed him.

Time will tell how this tale will play out and I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the Beech Avenue clan.

Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode is the author of “Have Dog Will Blog,” editor of the Central PA Pets magazine and director of the Central PA Pet Expo. She can be contacted at ahanna or by mail: Paws and Reflect, c/o Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode, Altoona Mirror, 301 Cayuga Ave., Altoona, PA 16602.