The difference between brute force and leadership

We got a new dog recently, a frisky year-old little thing that joins our very submissive dowager doggie.  Naturally, the new dog, who is more assertive in any event than our mellow old lady, tried to dominate her.  For the first few days, I was using leash training and proximity (to me) to try to control the situation.  This worked up to a point, but the moment my back was turned, new dog was stealing old dog’s toys and generally trying to be the pack leader.

Quite obviously, this wasn’t right.  And I really didn’t remember having these kinds of problems when we got our first dog.  She’s always been a mellow, submissive little thing, but it seemed easier back then to teach her the household drill.

Thinking back, I realized that we got our dowager dog during the time when we were watching Cesar Milan’s <em>The Dog Whisperer</em> a lot.  I started reviewing those old episodes in my mind, as well as checking out Milan’s website.  What I began to remember is that, while Milan will certainly use physical control as necessary, his primary method for training dogs is to radiate power and authority.  He doesn’t get into power struggles with the dogs, because that implies he’s at their level.  Instead, he is the power.  In his every dealing with dogs, he acts like a pack leader in command.

Acting like a person in command does involve exerting physical control over the dog, of course.  You may need a leash to remind the dog that you enter a room first, and you definitely need a leash on the dog to do heeling and “waiting” drills.  But there’s no anger, no struggle, and limited frustration.  Once you assert your dominance, the dog will stop fighting and start following.

Within five minutes of my getting a “pack leader” mindset (and no, that’s not an artistic-license exaggeration), the new dog relaxed.  It settled down with a chew toy and left the dowager alone.  The dowager lost that panicky look around her eyes and went to sleep.  With a leader in placed, they could stop the doggy domination and submission dance and get on with life.

Not unnaturally, this whole thing made me think of the difference between brute force and true leadership.  Obviously, humans aren’t dogs, so the whole pack hierarchy thing doesn’t apply.  Nevertheless, there’s a difference between someone who bullies and cajoles, whines and complains, and someone who simply radiates peaceful, assured authority.

Which leads me to this video: