In the years that I’ve been working with dogs, I’ve met some pretty powerful people. Not all of them are necessarily famous, but a lot of them have daily lives where they’re in charge of many others, or they run Fortune 500 companies, or they’ve been elected to office.
They’re the kind of people who can make things happen with a word, and their subordinates listen to them — sometimes out of fear, but usually out of respect for their knowledge and authority.
But there’s a reason that I’ve met these people. They’re very powerful in their daily lives interacting with other humans — but when it comes to their dogs, they’re absolutely helpless.
I refer to it as the “Powerbroker Paradox.” To see them at work, you’d think that they are in control of everything — calm, confident, and fearless. But the second they come home, their dogs walk all over them and are clearly the ones in charge.
It doesn’t matter what kind of dog it is, either. I’ve seen tiny teacup terriers totally intimidate the CEO of a multinational corporation, and a Labrador retriever run rings around a film and TV superstar. It doesn’t matter what the person does in the human world. At the end of the day when they come home, the only thing their dog pays attention to is their energy.
Now why do you suppose that these powerful people have absolutely no control over their dogs?
The answer is simple, really. Because they don’t take it.
When they come home, they leave all of that authority outside and the dogs walk all over them because they can. And then they call me to come and fix things. But it’s not the dogs that need fixing.
It’s surprising how difficult it can be sometimes to convince people that they can be the Pack Leader, especially when they normally do it all the time. Yet, this problem happens constantly. But why?
Ironically, it might be that they’re showing more respect for their dogs than for humans. When people hold back on being assertive with their dogs, it’s because they ascribe human emotions to them, and then don’t want to hurt their feelings by correcting them or telling them what to do.
The flip side of this is that they don’t seem to care about hurting the feelings of other human beings. Ironically, though, in applying this human standard, they are really showing exactly the wrong kind of respect for their dogs. To give a dog free rein, without any rules, is actually the highest form of disrespect. It doesn’t fulfill the dog’s needs and, depending on the dog, can cause them to become anxious, fearful, or aggressive.
The vast majority of dogs don’t want to be in charge. They want us to tell them what to do, and then they are very happy to do it. But if we don’t give them the leadership they need, then their reaction will be to see us as the follower and take over.
If you don’t have any problem taking charge with the people in your life but can’t seem to do it with your dogs, then the place to look for the solution is in your own energy. You don’t have to come on strong, just confident. It’s what your dogs want and need, and they’ll appreciate you even more for it.
Stay calm, and remember who’s the boss!