Top Dog: A Professional Guide

“If you want to be the top dog, you can’t play with the puppies.” ~ Master Guide Terry Overly

We all have the desire and need to be seen, even liked. The feeling of being looked towards, for direction or answers is a heady one that is also an honor.

Top Dog

Being a Professional Guide is an incredible responsibility, very much like leadership. Some believe the qualities and characteristics of leadership are ingrained into our very being, like the color of our eyes. Others believe that everything needed to become a great and influential leader can be learned.

Personally, I feel the truth is found in both. So much of our lives, the depth and color of leadership is rarely found in only black or white.

Of those same people, some believe that being a Professional Guide is all about “getting to go hunting all the time.” Others simply have no concept of the difference between what we call “hobby-guides” and a Professional Guide.

As individuals what does it really mean for us, to become the Top Dog?  My Father always called the people that he held the highest respect for, Top Dog.

The definition of “Top Dog” is one who has worked hard at acquiring the position of highest authority; the winner or alpha; the dominant or most influential, especially one who has worked hard for and was victorious in a hard-fought competition.

My maternal Grandfather and later my Father were very much the stars I set my course by throughout my life. They were very different in many ways but incredibly alike in many more. One thing they both had a habit of reminding me of, even as a child is that we become very much like those we spend the most time with.

It was from my Father I first heard say, “If you want to be the top dog, you can’t play with the puppies.” I asked him what he meant by that he explained to me that if I wanted to be the best, to be a leader or walk a new unexplored path that I could not spend my time laying around with the puppies.

To be the Top Dog, one must work and train incessantly. It would forever be a push into the unknown, facing self as well as any other obstacles that may lie in the path. The comfortable routines that so many follow and fall into would not lead into greatness.

More, as the world opens it’s arms and reveals it’s secrets the Top Dog must always care for and serve, the pack. As always I asked, “Why?” about every piece of this new information.

Familiarity, immoral and unethical behavior is rarely thought of when it’s all fun and there is all the time in the world ahead. If one is determined to be the Top Dog, then this always has to be foremost in mind and actions. For many young adults, the rush of knowledge, capabilities and freedom is a heady mix.

It isn’t easy having decided to be the Top Dog. It can even be lonely, when one finds themselves outdistancing the rest of the pack. It can be also be frightening when the time arrives that one has come so far into the undiscovered territory where there are no guides and there is no familiar reference to set your course by.

You now have a better understanding of what I mean. How does one become this Top Dog of his or her team?

❉ Decide. This is a conscious decision and it is an enormous commitment. If you have decided that you are going to be the Top Dog that your team needs and deserves then you have already taken the first step.

❉ Confidence. You must become confidence itself. Walking and talking self-assuredness, comfortable in your own skin and the direction you have chosen. True confidence requires that you are utterly self-aware. Your weaknesses and failures are pieces of you to examine, heal and strengthen. This requires a great amount of courage, but each step will also build your courage and confidence.

❉ Say it out loud! You want to be the Top Dog! So many people assume the powers that be will notice them and naturally pick them out of the pack (team). Be very clear in your intentions. Be kind, open and be direct in your actions and words.

❉ Calm and composed. The Top Dog is always in control of his or her emotions. Yelling and screaming, mentally, emotionally abusing others or being the bossy-micro-manager is not what the Top Dog is all about. This creates the atmosphere of safety and acceptance to those around you.

❉ The Top Dog which people look to and remember long after he or she has gone, is the one who stood for others. The Top Dog fought for what was right and protected those weaker. The Top Dog is not a bully or someone who will use his or her team as stepping-stones.

❉ Be the best. The greatest are those that are constantly learning, adjusting, branching off to different and unknown paths and figuring things out. The Top Dog is a problem solver.

Making the decision to commit to becoming Top Dog is a life long promise to oneself to always strive to improve. Not simply for your own benefit, honor and integrity but also for those around you. It is an incredibly rewarding path of discovery and it is a hard path of sacrifice.

Now you!

  • Are you on your way to becoming the Top Dog?
  • What great people in your life have influenced your decision to become the Top Dog? (My own, from my earliest memories are Winston Churchill and Joe Engle.)
  • What has proven to be the trickiest obstacle in your own journey?


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