Magic Words

Labrador Retrievers are among one of the more intelligent dog breeds. Their vocabulary often extends over two hundred words. They generally understand short phrases. Bailey, our wonderful black lab, cherished several words that generated immediate response. Her favorite word, Squirrel,sent her jumping and barking at the back door. This behavior continued until she raced from the house into the yard. All the while, barking and searching for that darn squirrel.
Her second favorite word, Porch, also caused her to jump, bark, and race to the back door. This key word was the command to join me on the back porch. How she loved to have her pack leader sitting on the screened in porch. She reclined in her constant position –at my feet protecting me from all those darn squirrels.
Her favorite phrase, Time for a Walk, sent her racing to the utility room where her leash hung from a hook. She never passed up a trip to the neighborhood pond. The geese spent their days, both summer and winter, by the fish pond. Although Bailey hadn’t been trained to hunt, her instincts were strong. Both her parents were field labs; her baby book has pictures of her daddy with a fowl in his month. I swear he is smiling. She recognized her prey and stood in perfect pointer form with her tail flagged high. What a thrill for her to experience her genetic imprint.
Barkleah, being a foxy Toy Fox Terrier, learned many of the key words as well. He modeled his behavior after Bailey. But being an Alpha dog, he soon demonstrated his ability to take over command. His tactic was ingenious. He would race to find me. Then he stood on his two back legs and placed his two front paws on my knee. He stared with those coal black eyes and would not move. After several seconds, I would put him on the floor and return to my activity. He repeated his stance and stare routine until I stopped whatever I was doing and said, “Show me.”
With Barkleah in the lead, he hopped around the room, raced to the kitchen, wandered towards the bedroom all the while making sure I was still in tow. Finally, once he had total control, he raced towards the utility room and sat next to the hanging dog leash. Mission accomplished. He seemed to smile as I asked, “Do you want to go for a walk?”
Of course, the response was affirmative. Bailey stood behind Barkleah and seemed to whisper, “Good job, kid.”
When did I lose my position as pack leader?

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