About three years ago, I started researching good family dogs. Again and again, labs showed as the number one choice. They didn’t howl, they could be trained easily, and if you worked eight hours a day (as I did) they could be crate trained. At the time, my son was six, and it was very important to me to choose a dog that would not harm my child.
I’d never owned a dog before. My father and brother are allergic to almost every animal you can name, so our family pets were a rooster named Sam (another blog post, perhaps) and a few rabbits. After I finished researching and decided on a lab, I visited our local pound. As luck would have it, they had two black lab/Newfie pups, 13 weeks old, and as cute as could be. I chose the feisty one who bit my finger.
Gus is an alpha male and stubborn. He’s been to obedience class. He’s learned sit, shake, lie down, stay, and leave it. He still pulls when I walk him. He barks when he meets other dogs, because he’s a big chicken and tries to establish dominance. He nips the dog’s ears and has been nipped himself. When people see all 5’4″ and 97 pounds of him, they freak out. I have been screamed at more than once by terrified folks at the dog park, dog swim, and off-leash parks. One man said Gus bit his son’s leg. It was a pencil-tip nip with no blood, and it was after the boy and the man screamed because Gus came running over to them.
Alas, as Gus moves into his third year, he still acts like a puppy. I’ve spent at least 500 dollars on gimmicks to make him behave. And I research constantly (which is what I wish everyone would do). When I say, “Walk,” Gus leaps like Rudolph the Red-nosed reindeer or humps our other dog Ginger. I’ve been acting more assertive with him lately, taking him on more walks–trying to burn out his puppy-like aggression. He is not a mean dog. I love Gus, and people who know him think he’s wonderful. He’s a lab and a newfie, for Pete’s sake. I chose him for his attitude. Maybe in my next life, I’ll choose a slug.