Humans like to think that they’re not pack animals, but we are, and for proof of that we only need to look at the nearest gas station. Prices dropped to their lowest levels in years because the king of Saudi Arabia announced that he wasn’t going to reduce production. Then, the king died and, although his successor said nothing about reducing production, prices shot back up because of uncertainty.
People do not like uncertainty. It makes them anxious, maybe even fearful. In humans, uncertainty can be caused by a lack of leadership, but we’re not the only ones affected that way.
Lack of leadership
The number one cause of misbehavior in dogs is a lack of leadership from their humans. When we fail to exhibit calm, assertive energy, they can either ignore us and go do their own thing, or wind up taking control of us themselves. And, like humans, not every dog is a natural leader, so if they do end up being forced to take control, they will do it with whatever energy that lack of control has given them.
Some dogs become anxious and overexcited when they don’t have leadership. Others become aggressive, or fearful. But what they all become without that calm, assertive leadership is unbalanced.
The gas price analogy above is a perfect example. When the king of Saudi Arabia told the world exactly what he was going to do regarding oil production, it had a calming effect — prices dropped. But as soon as he was out of the picture and because nobody knew what to expect from the new king, the market panicked and prices shot up.
Likewise, when your dog knows exactly what you expect from her and has rules to follow, it has a calming effect. The dog’s energy level drops, in a good way. Take away that clarity, though, and like gas prices, the energy level and uncertainty in the dog shoots way up.
Focus on yourself
This is why it’s very important, when your dog has behavioral issues, to not focus on the dog. Focus on yourself, and what energy you’re bringing into the equation. Are you giving nothing but affection or are you afraid to correct your dog? Are you generally high energy and overexcited? Are you inconsistent in enforcing the rules? All of those things will contribute to misbehavior, and each one exhibits a lack of leadership.
Leadership is the ability to lead, obviously, and the definition of lead is “to go before or with to show the way.” This is exactly what our function should be and needs to be with our dogs, because they’re living in our world.
Be the Pack Leader
If they were living in a dog pack in the dog world, the pack would show them the way. Since we’ve brought them into our human world, we need to show them the way they need to behave in that world, but we need to do it in a way that they can understand — directly, using energy and instincts.
Dogs want to be the followers, which is why we need to be the leaders. When we fail to do so, our dogs will misbehave, in some cases extremely, but it is a problem that can be solved when the humans take control. Remember — we don’t have a dog crisis. We have a leadership crisis.
Stay calm, and be the Pack Leader!
In what areas do you feel you are not consistent with your dog? Tell us your story in the comments.