—Wanna B. Da Top Dog
A: Wanna B., my dear, I am so sorry to have to tell you this, but if you have to ask who the boss is, it's not you. That said, because you are dealing with dogs and not say, cats, fish, or small children—creatures that don't care about your feelings or your place in the hierarchy—, for the sake of your dogs, you need to at least pretend to be the boss. That's how packs work.
Now most people, when faced with this type of dilemma, make the mistake of falling back on the workplace model of bossing. This will not work. Your dogs will not respond well to yelling, bullying, withholding raises, favoring the suck-ups and the well-endowed, imposing ridiculous deadlines, or requiring them to attend interminable staff meetings about fill-in-the-blank harassment. They will turn moody and unproductive, wasting countless hours surfing the Net and posting on X-Files chat rooms.
No, what you need to do, Wanna, is think and act like the alpha in the pack. Strategies are below in the order of effectiveness.
- acting as if you can't see or hear your dogs (Just imagine that you are rolling in poo and your dogs, in a neat switcheroo, are calling "Here! Come here! Stop that! Wrong!" Then turn up the "Lalalalalala" noise in your head and keep doing what you are doing.)
- feigning sleep or actually napping (Nothing puts a kibosh on dog swarming than seeing you recumbent on the couch or bed. Your dogs' disappointment as they automatically fling themselves down at the foot of the bed will be palpable. Savor it. Note: It helps if you don't move for the next two hours.)
- holding the newspaper or magazine you are trying to read at exactly the right angle to prevent the dogs from making eye contact from you. (After ten minutes of staring at the back page of your favorite publication, the dogs will forget what they ever saw in you.) Note: Don't try this with food! It will send entirely the wrong message.
- sorting dirty laundry (As with children, nothing clears a room like the starting of an odious task. Upside: Clean socks.)
- taking them outside (Let the weather speak for you. Stand around and get bitten by mosquitos for ten minutes. Then throw up your hands and say, "See? It's too hot." Go back inside and administer treats. Then start at the top of the list.)
Good luck, and thanks for writing!