Democracy is an alien concept for dogs. They do not expect nor do they wish to live in equality with other dogs or with people. Dogs prefer to live in a dictatorship, they need a pecking order to feel confident. They usually don’t mind where they come in the pecking order – they just need to know.
Strong leadership is what provides stability and a sense of belonging. This can sometimes be difficult for people to accept, as it is contrary to our own sense of what is just and acceptable.
Remember as a kid when you checked to see if your brother had more milkshake in his glass than you, or complained when he got to watch 30 minutes more TV than you did?
Everything needed to be ‘fair’, and your parents actually worked pretty hard to make your sibling world a ‘fair’ one. The word ‘fair’ is unnecessary in the world of dogs, they have no expectation of it.
In homes with more than one dog, owners can immediately tell you which dog is ‘top’ – something like ‘Rufus might be smaller, but he’s definitely top dog around here…’ This dominance order is set by the dogs, it’s what they are programmed to do. Once every dog knows their spot, life continues on quite happily.
If one day the current ‘top dog’ comes home from the vet recovering from an injury, it’s likely that there will be no sympathy from the underling dog at home, until the hierarchy order has changed and been accepted.
There’s a reason for the phrase it’s a ‘dog eat dog’ world.
It might not be nice to watch your other dog growl at the sick dog you just brought home, but it is all about survival for our canine friends.
It’s instinctive for them to have a strong healthy dog on the top of the pile.
It can be distressing for owners to witness disinterest or aggression towards the ‘hurt’ dog, but if owners can just let this behaviour be, it will hopefully only be brief, the hierarchy will change and it’s likely the dogs will settle down quickly.
In families where the people feel one dog is being bullied and they then seek to compensate by giving the bullied dog affection first or food first, they can unwittingly set the situation up to escalate.
Being offered food or affection first elevates the underling dog, which makes absolutely no sense to the dominant dog that will just think it’s bonkers. And may take the frustration out on the underling dog.
Usually, if the people acknowledge the dominance order quite simply by feeding or calling the dominant dog first, then peace can be restored and it makes perfect sense, not only to the dominant dog, but to the underling dog as well.
When a dog has strong boundaries and knows the hierarchy, he can just chill out and be a dog.
The vast majority of dogs are content to know that they are not required to make decisions. Their lives are then far more relaxed and they are great family members.
Every time dogs meet at a park, on the street or on the beach, there is more inter-dog communication in 4 seconds than there is for us in 2 hours of ice-breakers at a 3-day conference.
The interaction can be subtle, the dominant dog is established quickly, it’s accepted, it’s no big deal and then the walk can continue.
Very nice, fair, democratic owners inhabit many of the homes I visit that are also home to ‘crazy’ dogs with behaviours that are very hard to live with.
The blurred lines of leadership are the very things that are creating erratic and unwanted behaviour.
Creating defined leadership is not difficult or ‘mean’ it is simply adjusting ways of being with your dog. When you provide the dictatorship that dogs understand all becomes clear and calm in their world.
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