How a selfish dog becomes selfless

By Jennifer Stoeckl, MAT - Dire Wolf Project CEO, Feb. 9, 2024
max as a puppy.jpg
Max as a puppy

Did you know you can promote either a selfish or a selfless dog?

Much of it is in how you lead.

Our giant companion dogs are generally submissive by nature.

They are followers, and they prefer it that way.

Being a leader takes strength of character and steadfast confidence.

American Dirus Dogs are omega types; the peacemakers of the dog world.

The part of the pack that bravely intervenes in a fight and allows others to shift their anger/fear/anxiety onto them.

Many of our dogs will naturally sacrifice themselves for others.

This is the ultimate definition of selflessness.

But like clay in the potter’s hands, dogs are highly moldable.

You can take that innocent puppy willing to give in to the leader and allow it too much freedom, giving it everything it wants whenever it wants.

A puppy that wants for nothing doesn’t build an understanding that it can overcome the inevitable stresses in life.

They forget their cultural heritage as a DireWolf Dog and become spoiled and entitled.

When this happens, selfish desires begin to creep in.

Today, I want to share a huge breakthrough with Max.

If you’ve been with us a while, you may already know the story.

But, if you have just joined us, here is an overview.

This beautiful silver male came to us from a home that loved him dearly, but unfortunately allowed him too much freedom at a young age.

There is evidence from early on as a young puppy that Max had a dominant personality.

He was a natural born leader.

Lois mentioned this in her puppy notes about him.

I know he was a harder dog to handle because of this.

For this reason, he should not have gone to a home with little dog training experience.

The kind-hearted family did all they could and gave Max a loving home with everything he could want.

But over time, Max became a huge bully.

He jumped, bit, and pushed his human family around with no respect for them whatsoever.

He ignored their every wish, only doing what he wanted for his own selfish desires.

So, one day, I got a call.

As we have done for other dogs in need, we dropped everything to help this family and their unruly teenage dog.

On the trip back to Washington state, Max became agitated by my constant doting and he reared up, gnashing his teeth.

His mouth clamped down on my arm as I shielded my face from his overflowing frustration.

I didn’t hold it against him.

From the bewildered look on his face, I knew he was scared, confused, and uncertain about this strange lady who didn’t move out of his way when he pushed.

We learned a lot that day about each other and our relationship.

Max learned that he could get frustrated and overwhelmed; and I would still be an unbendable solid oak to lean on afterwards.

I learned that he was highly emotional and sensitive, even though he looked like he was completely ignoring me.

I tell you this story last year because I saw a change in Max’s selfish attitude yesterday.

It didn’t come quickly or obviously.

It has been happening gradually, with each new experience day after day.

But clearly Max is now showing true consideration for others; me and his pack.

He has now given over complete leadership and shown clear respect for my authority.

When he first came to Dire Wolf Project headquarters, he jumped and bit at my hands when I would enter his pen. It was playful, but disrespectful bullying nonetheless.

He pushed his body into me, trying to get me to move out of his way.

He ignored all of my directions, not acknowledging my existence.

He pushed his head into the food bucket the minute I entered the pen and refused to step back away making me walk forcefully into him to get to his bowl to fill it.

He always ate first, never considering the other dogs in the pen.

When he was finished eating, he would push away the others still eating and eat their food, too.

He never looked to me for thanks and appreciation.

He never asked for pets and affection.

Through consistent reasonable boundaries and rules, Max has stopped ALL of that selfish behavior.

He now moves back willingly when I enter his pen.

He looks up at me and backs away when I remind him not to crowd the food bucket or put his head into it before I pour his food.

He waits to eat until I have poured all the food into his bowl instead of snarfing it down pushing my hand away so I spill half of it on the ground near the bowl.

And yesterday, he even moved away and graciously allowed Mary (his roommate) to eat first. He chose another bowl instead.

But he didn’t eat right away.

He looked up at me with affection and asked me to pet him.

And when I obliged, he leaned into me and hugged my legs in a clear sign of thanks and gratitude.

Then, he ate without desperation, but with much more refinement and delicacy.

He is not the same dog that came to us those months ago.

But the best part is…

we have recently found a home for Max with a family who has previous dog training experience working with reactive and energetic German Shepherd Dogs.

The family is active and will be able to provide Max an outlet for his energy and superior intelligence.

He will be traveling back to the city, where he grew up.

No longer the bratty teenager with willful disrespect.

Now a loving, kind-hearted dog that can let others take the lead in his life.

If you feel empty at home and the joy has disappeared, consider one of our older dogs.

Many have a solid loving foundation built on mutual respect with clear boundaries.

We only keep the best, so our retired breeding dogs have excellent temperaments and loving hearts.

There are a few available still looking for that loving home to call their own.

And if you can’t have a dog right now, you can still sponsor an older dog’s care and feeding.

We rescue any DireWolf Dog in need and dedicate ourselves to keeping all DireWolf Dogs out of shelters.

It takes a great deal of money and time to house them here and your support is greatly appreciated.

Find out more about our adult DireWolf Dogs at the link below:

Jennifer Stoeckl is the co-founder of the Dire Wolf Project, founder of the DireWolf Guardians American Dirus Dog Training Program, and owner/operator of DireWolf Dogs of Vallecito. She lives in the beautiful inland northwest among the Ponderosa pine forests with her pack of American Dirus dogs.