You be the Leader

The readers are aware now that the dog society like ours consists of packs. All the pack members have their strong allegiance to the leader. The submissive trait is thus derived from a social structure which has a hierarchy in the form of a leader and rests are the members. A pack member type of dog looks up at his leader for a command. A pack leader type of dog likes to be in command. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. If the owner has a submissive nature, a leader type of dog would mean trouble for him. A leader type of dog will need an owner who can really dominate the scene. Domination does not mean physical domination. The dog should hold the master in awe and respect and yet love him immensely. From the viewpoint of a trainer, the pack leader types of dogs are more intelligent. They apply brains in learning. In reality they are better communicators and are able to express.

Instincts become weaker or stronger according to circumstances. It happens to this instinct as well. A submissive dog tries to please his master all the time. For example a Labrador retriever though a born retriever has to be trained to retrieve. A submissive specimen would try to fetch something all the time. Many times the fetching game becomes an obsession. In order to keep the instinct at optimum level, it is better to train your dog and also keep on repeating the lessons daily throughout the life. The human child learns through a process of education. After learning and retaining the lessons in one year he gets promoted to the next class to learn more. With age as the brain develops the process of learning goes on. In case of dogs however, the development of the brain is limited to a certain level only. Therefore, the lessons he learns are also limited. But practicing them daily sharpens the skills and the dog develops a closer association.

To explain this point I will cite an example. Goldy my Champion Labrador retriever bitch was just trained to Heel and Stand and to be touched by a Judge in the show ring. She was already four years old when I started to train her for obedience work. Normally people have a belief that an older dog can not be trained. It is not so-a dog can be trained at any age, provided the owner has the will to train and the dog has the aptitude to learn. She picked up the basic lessons of Come, Sit and Down in no time. She was not trained to retrieve, but yes retrieving was engrained in her genes.

Unlike many other younger dogs this too she picked up much faster. Thereafter she developed an obsession for retrieving. In the evening when I was back from work, she would wait for me to dress up. The moment I tied the laces of my walking shoes, she would rush to the corner where her leashes were kept and would bring her nylon leash with choke chain, nudging me to take her out. I had never taught her to retrieve the leash. Similarly she would bring the newspaper on her own and place it on my bed without any formal training.

I pondered over this trait for many days and kept thinking ‘why she was retrieving things without any training?’ The answer was simple. Her submissive instinct told her that if she retrieves objects of daily use, the master (leader) will be happy. Soon she began to associate words like slippers, walking shoes, stick etc with retrieving followed by the reward of walks. While returning from walks I began to fold and put the surplus length of her leash in her mouth. She was already trained to Go on command. I just had to add Home to that. She began to go home with the folded leash in her mouth and once in the home she would wait for me at the spot where the leashes were kept. But believe me there was neither an extra intelligence involved in this, nor she was becoming an almost human. This was just a part of her submissive instinct which told her ‘keep doing to please the master…’

In wilderness or amongst the street dogs in India the pack leader of course is a dog. He is not a human being acting as a leader-naturally the commands to be obeyed are different. In the street or in the wilderness the objective is only to gather food for survival. Once a kill is made the leader gets the lion’s share in food and if a member tries to have more he is shooed away with one growl.

On the other hand a dog under the ‘leadership’ of his master, has to cater to different type of commands. Food is no problem; security, health and hygiene are all taken care of. While in the nature these are the things for which a dog has to struggle and strive for. 

As already explained the submissive instinct makes a dog perform acts which please the leader/master. In return he gets all the love and affection as a reward. Once a dog is away from his dam and with the new master and his family he looks forward to the leader for issuing orders. To his confusion and dismay the leader is blissfully unaware and takes no initiative in the direction, except correcting him all the time.

One can learn a lot by observing a pack of dogs in the street. They have their well marked territories and they play, search for food or sleep in that. But as soon as a stranger enters their territory, the leader gives a warning and the pack gets ready to pounce. However, unlike a home in the nature the rule book of dogs does not have superfluous taboos. The leader correcting the pack is rarely seen. Main reason behind this is that in their set up much correction is not required. In the house the pup has to learn not to defecate inside, not to chew the shoes, not to bark at visitors etc. The list of ‘No s’ is longer. The submissive instinct of the dog should be made use of and the owners should rise as leaders to train their dogs.

Many owners narrate that their dog behaves very well in presence of trainer, obeys all commands willingly. But once the trainer leaves the dog stops obeying or has to be nagged for each command. The reason is that trainer overawes the owners and dog begins to treat him as the leader. The instinct makes dogs pay more attention to their trainer, because the dog treats the trainer as the leader and tries to be submissive to him.

Under normal circumstances the family dog recognizes the husband as the pack leader, wife as second in command and other children as members of the pack. He is submissive to them in the order he establishes the hierarchy. Dog has extremely powerful sense of observation. If the leader is firm, the dog knows it. In case the leader is weak, the dog will either change the allegiance or try to identify the next in command as the leader. This happens especially when the husband is ‘most obedient’.

The instinct of fear is related to the instinct of submission. All animals are scared of the two-legged creature called the man. Dogs are no exception to this fact. However, an animal removed from its nest as a baby and reared by man develops an attachment with him. The fear instinct has a two-way function. On one hand the dog is scared of humans and attacks out of fear. Though, this instinct has been considerably controlled. On the other hand the dogs are able to make out whether the person in question is afraid of them or not?  Have you ever thought why the dogs seldom bite the dog handlers and trainers? Similarly, infants, drunkards and mad persons are spared from their fangs. Just because they do not reflect any fear. Dogs are able to sniff the adrenaline released in the sweat and attack according to the fear shown by you. While training the Police dogs the make believe thieves have to act as if they are scared of the dog, otherwise the dog may avoid ‘catching’ them from their arm.

Experienced dog owners and professional trainers never bully or punish the dog, because they are not afraid of them. A person trying to kick his dog is surely scared of him. Inadvertently he tries to revive the fear instinct in his dog, which was hitherto subdued. Therefore, hitting a dog will take you no where, except that a good dog may turn a fear biter. In a natural pack a dog is never scared of his leader. He is submissive to the leader, but not scared. He holds the leader in the highest esteem. While the same dog with a human family develops aberrations. This is because the leader/master tries to dominate all the time. If the master is firm and quick in decision making the dog will obey, as the master desires. In case the master fumbles, remains undecided gets nervous the dog makes out immediately. In turn the dog either tries to takeover the leadership or becomes scared due to the physical prowess of the master.

It is important for a life-long, healthy communication with the dog to understand the significance of the instinct of submission and fear.

More By  :  V. K. Joshi (Bijji)

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Comments on this Blog

Comment Very well said. Problem is that despite knowing everything we keep on following those corrupt leaders and vote for them religiously. Fortunately doggy leaders are absolutely clean.

V.K. Joshi
21-May-2010 10:43 AM

Comment I think this article should be read by the politicians and learn true leadership skills.  Currently the pack is busy only in following corrupt practices the cause of which is either fear or greed and definitely not leadership.

Kiran Sharma
20-May-2010 22:02 PM

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