Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Leadership is NOT Dominance

When dealing with and working with pets, you’ll hear terms like “being the dominant one” or being the “pack leader”. There are a lot of resources out there that will talk about one or the other, or both. Just like anything else – there’s a lot of good information out there and there’s information that is, well..outdated.

What I want to go over today is Leadership IS NOT Dominance.

Leadership is being able to be the guiding force or the “pillar” for the pet (even for people). As an example, think about the team leads or people in a leadership position that you have had that have instilled a sense of confidence within you. I know the people that I have enjoyed as my mentors and team leads have always had a calm, confident nature about them. When a reprimand was issued out – it was done with focus and again – calm. In a pack or herd (or flock for that matter) situation – the members of that group will follow a leader who isn’t frustrated easily and doesn’t have a “freak out” moments in cases of an emergency. Would you want to follow someone who is nervous all the time or has a mental break down at every little “emergency”?

Dominance is who controls the resources. Dominance isn’t necessarily a “power over” mentality. It also isn’t something that is brutal or abusive. As far as our animal companions are concerned – a lot of behavioral issues can be corrected (or at least modified) when you set a boundary by making a pet work for their treats or their food. Any time before meals, they must sit before you put their bowl on the floor. This enforces your leadership as well as dominance. With my own dogs for example - they loved going out for a walk. They knew that they had to sit and stay where they were until I said “Okay”. If either of them moved when I opened the door (after leashes were on), then I closed the door and we did it again until they stayed put and not move until I said it was ok.

Some pets will push your buttons and see what they can get away with. They want to see how serious you are and if you can waver from your decision. In this case – leadership is you enforcing your boundary by sticking to what you said. Did you also know that you can enforce and enhance your leadership with active playtime with your pet? If you can have fun with them and teach them as you go (make things a learning experience) – this will also go a long way towards your pet listening to you in the future. There is also a greater emotional component on behalf of the owner – but that will be for another blog.

What can you do in the meantime? If your pet already listens to you and respects you – FANTASTIC! You are doing a great job! For the folks who may still have an issue with their pets listening to them, the first thing you can do is breathe. Take a few deep breaths to calm and focus (or center) yourself. Work on your basic obedience tasks. If your pup doesn’t listen or won’t sit (as an example) – then they don’t get a treat and they don’t get to do anything else until they sit. You don’t get upset or emotional – it’s just matter of fact.

The more consistent you are with your boundaries and how you handle things – the more your pet will want to listen and follow your leadership. Pets, much like children need consistency, boundaries and focus which is all wrapped up into leadership.