While I have been preparing for the “How to be an Even Better Pack Leader” class event coming up in a couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to speak with more owners than usual about their dogs and the specific problems they may have. We have over 60 people signed up for this event, which means there is a lot of interest in the material but – more importantly – a lot of caring for their dogs. The vast majority of conversations have a component of, “I know it’s me and not the dog,” which is an incredibly wonderful proclamation because it means these pack leaders’ minds are open to learning more about what they might not realize they know.
Many of the folks I work with can do the same things I show them that their dog can do, they just didn’t realize that was the language they needed to “speak” to their dog. In other words, the language we need to use with our dogs doesn’t involve a lot of sound, and it absolutely doesn’t require talking in the conventional sense.
Animals speak to each other through their energy. Our cat, Shaka, is a pack member in our house and he is as off limits to aggression as any other member of the pack. He will “tell” a boarder at the house when they are too close, wrong energy, correct energy, and has no problem walking among the pack. Which at any given time has been as many as five different dogs. He also knows that while I’ll let him speak to the energy, just as I’ll let the dogs speak to it, I am the one still in charge so that if any of the pack members are out of line, I’ll be disagreeing with it. If not, THEY become the pack leader.
What is the basic misunderstanding that humans have? The role of a pack leader. Pack leaders serve two main functions: Protection & Direction. I provide protection from the wrong energy or incorrect disagreements within the pack. Because of this, I gain more trust, respect, and loyalty from the other members. I also provide direction, the “what are we doing next?” component. Again, more trust, respect, and loyalty. When your dog gets so excited to go on a walk that they pull you out the door, you shouldn’t be surprised that they will get more aggressive towards people or dogs on the walk because who is providing direction? They are. They are now also providing protection because you did not assume the role of the leader – you allowed them to take over. When you try to regain control, it becomes harder because you are now CHALLENGING the pack leader’s authority and it now probably involves frustration, stress, anger, embarrassment on your part. Here’s a hint: preventing this behavior from the beginning by calmly asserting yourself as the leader before you even pick up the leash in the house is the key.
By the way, the caption for the accompanying photo found on the internet says, “Walking a dog is an easy thing to do. Just follow his lead.” And they were serious!
I’ll be looking forward to meeting our new pack leaders at the event and if you know other people who might be interested – whether they currently own a dog or not – email or text me so I have their reservation, and bring them for a night of fun learning. Thursday, February 19, 6:30 p.m. at Community Presbyterian Church, 150 Sherry Drive, Atlantic Beach, FL.
Until the next time, stay calm and keep learning!