Humans believe all kinds of crazy things, like
- sharks are more dangerous than cars,
- the Kardashians are actually interesting, and
- being a good leader for your dog means acting like something out of a werewolf horror movie.
But what if people who want to be strong pack leaders for their dogs learned about leadership from dancers? Instead of from misunderstood and outdated research about wolves? What would that look like?
If Pack Leaders Led Like Dancers
The leader’s first responsibility is to keep his following partner safe from harm. A dancer who drops his partner when she slips will lose her trust.
The choice of leash and training techniques must not hurt our dog partners. If they do, our dogs learn that we cause pain. And if they’re smart, they’ll learn to mistrust us.
The leader and follower are always focused on each other, even when they’re not touching.
I’m a big fan of off-leash walking. When my dog Honey isn’t connected to me by a leash, I’m continually calling her to me, running away to encourage her to chase, and introducing games into the walk.
We’re continually aware of each other, even if we’re not attached by a leash.
The leader sets the path and energy for the movement while the follower actively continues it. Dancers who drag their partners around the floor don’t win prizes.
Leashes aren’t handles we use to pull our dogs away from things we don’t want them to sniff (although they may work that way in an emergency).
As leaders for our dogs, we guide the momentum of our relationship. And our dogs respond to it as our partners.
The leader remembers the constraints his partner is dealing with, like high heels and complicated costumes.
Our dogs are brilliant. But they don’t have human intelligence. They don’t speak English (honest). And they spend much of their life relating to people’s ankles, knees, or hips.
Dogs have to work very hard to fit into our world. It’s important for us to remember that every day.
If a leader and follower are working together well, the result is beautiful.
After Honey and I crossed the hotel lobby, a stranger walked up to us. He asked if I knew a particular dog freestyle champion team (I did not). He said the way Honey looked up at my face while we were walking reminded me of the winning pair.
I’ve never felt more proud in my life.
Lead Dancer, Not Pack Leader
Dancing, of all kinds, is getting more attention than ever.
If we could change the popular model of leadership for our dogs from alpha wolf competitions (which don’t actually exist the way popular dog trainers imagine them) to ballroom dance competitions (video link), we’d have happier dogs.
And, even if we occasionally miss a step, the results would still be beautiful.
Your Turn: Is dancing a good example for your relationship with your dog? Or do you use another analogy?