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Follow The Leader, Part 2

In Follow The Leader Part 1, I made it clear as to why it’s important for you to be a pack leader. Now it’s time for some mythbusting. Below I bust three of the most common myths around being a pack leader.

Myth 1: Leadership Means Bullying

Please don’t buy into this foolish notion that a dog’s personality will be broken if you establish leadership. On the contrary, a dog’s personality can really shine because having a strong leader makes her feel protected.

Remember, leadership and bullying are not synonymous. Bullies are losers, NOT leaders.

Myth 2: Leadership Means Injustice

I’ve heard some people say that it’s unfair to be in a leadership position in relation to our dogs - that we should all be equals.

Egalitarian thinking is suitable for human society, but it’s inappropriate when living with dogs: dogs are inherently pack animals, and packs involve a hierarchy. You assuming the role of leader in the pack hierarchy is not unjust at all. Quite the opposite: it makes a dog feel safe and secure to have a strong pack leader.

Myth 3: Leadership Means Dominance

Being the leader of the pack means that you’re officially the ‘dominant dog’ of the pack, and to some people the word “dominant” automatically means harshness and severity. But that’s not the case when talking about dominance in a dog pack. The dominant dog is simply the dog who all the other dogs listen to.

Yes, dominant dogs (actual dogs, that is, not you as ‘dominant dog’) do use growls and snaps to remind young upstarts who's in charge, but only because that’s the kind of communication dogs have available to them. Dogs can’t speak, so they use what they’ve got (sounds, body language, and sometimes aggression) to communicate. You, conversely, have more at your disposal as far as communication goes, and so there’s no need to resort to any kind of aggression when it comes to leadership in relation to your dog.

Maybe you’ve had lots of terrible experiences with people who abuse their leadership roles. Join the club. We’ve all had those kinds of experiences. But that’s no reason to automatically load the words “leader” and “leadership” negatively. It’s irrational to dismiss the entire notion of leadership as undesirable because of some negative personal experiences. (I’ve had bad experiences with bus drivers, but from that I don’t robotically conclude that all bus drivers are horrible - that would be silly.)

I should also briefly talk about the words “follower” and “submissive”, as they’re respectively the flipside of “leader” and “dominant”. Again, some people’s knee-jerk reaction is to assume that it's a bad thing for a dog to be in the position of follower and be the submissive dog in a pack. Not so. In the context of a dog pack, being the follower/submissive dog simply means having to listen to the leader/dominant dog. And assuming you’ve read Follow The Leader Part 1, you'll know why that’s best for your dog.

Think Like A Dog

To sum up: avoid negatively loading the words “leader”, “leadership”, and “dominant”. When thinking about your leadership role in relation to your dog, it’s vital that you remain within dog psychology terms. In other words, stop thinking like a human, and start thinking like a dog.

Read On

Remember, this is a three-part Dog Blog, so there's one more to read: Follow The Leader Part 3.

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Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

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