Follow the Leader – I often talk about leadership with dog owners, but realize it may mean different things to different people. For some, it conjures up images of a dictatorship, and the idea that you can be a leader and love your dog seems impossible. Leadership to me has more to do with teaching dogs how to navigate in a human world. They need input and guidance from people as to what is expected and acceptable. Leadership in this form is more about freedom, safety, needs, wants, compromise, trust, and respect. The goal is to live together, hopefully, in peace and harmony.
Leadership, to me, is more of a partnership such as an athlete and a coach. The coach looks at the big picture, develops a game plan and strategy while the athlete focuses more on the daily tasks to improve performance. One is not more important than the other, they just have different roles in achieving the goal. The coach is almost always viewed as the leader in that relationship because they have the most experience and ability to make the best decisions for the overall game plan.
In a human/dog relationship the human needs to be the leader because they hopefully have the big picture view of what needs to be done to achieve harmony. This doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from your dog, I learn great lessons from dogs all the time but that’s another story to be told.
You can’t announce your leadership role and expect followers to show up. Show your dog you have his best interest in mind by: teaching what you want, being consistent, fair, calm, providing what he needs, spending quality time, and having fun together – it will help him trust and respect your leadership.
To quote Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility”.
Now, go lead your dog!