Sunday, January 10, 2010

The advantage of leadership

The first advantage of leadership over not having any is, obviously, you can make creatures do your bidding. Such as, say, your dog. And speaking of dogs, the other great advantage of leadership over whatever dog-handling theory you believe in is, leadership doesn't require you to think, or to do anything. All you have to do is be. Leadership works by wu wei. It's nice that way.

Consider the following. Suppose a dog jumps up on you. Why does the dog jump on you? Well, that's a stupid question. Yes, there is such a thing as a stupid question. It's stupid to ask yourself why the dog jumps, because the dog isn't asking himself. The dog jumps on you for the same reason he barks, licks his balls, and has sex with other dogs. He's a dog. That's what he does. It's the Tao of dogs.

A less stupid question would be: why can't you prevent the dog jumping on you? And by "you" I don't mean "a person", I mean specifically you, as in "not me". Because I don't have that problem. I absolutely can prevent dogs jumping on me. In fact, it amuses me.

One time, my neighbour's huge jumpy dog Chaos came running at me in the lobby of the Highrise, thinking she was gonna jump on me. I put my hand on her and she was down on her back before her owner could even intervene. I didn't apply any force to her. It would have been pointless anyway, since she's stronger than I am. I simply desired her not to jump, and she didn't. It's almost two years and the guy still tells that story.

Likewise my other neighbour's basset. She used to jump on everyone who came to the door, except me. If the door opened and I was there, she would stop herself mid-jump and go back to bed.

I love doing that, because it amazes the owners. But I couldn't tell them how to do it, really, because I'm not doing anything. I just desire the dog not to jump. The reason the dog doesn't jump is because obeying me is even more natural to him than jumping on me.

If you had leadership, you could do that too. But since you don't believe in leadership, you'll have to devise some convoluted manipulative shenanigans to try and bribe your dog out of jumping. It's a waste of time and not a reliable method, but oh well. That's what you get for sucking as a dog handler.

With Tinky-Winky, I use bribes to teach her useless parlour tricks such as "pray" and "roll over". The useful stuff, like "come", "leave it" and "down", she does because I want it. She knew none of it when I got her, and I never bothered teaching her any of it, except the difference between "sit" and "down." She just knows pretty well what I want, and she does it because doing what I want is important to her.

We don't even have any kind of protocol for "punishment." We don't need it, that's why. One time an annoying know-it-all guy insisted on making his dog violate Tinky-Winky's personal space. The dog didn't want to. I told the guy not to. He insisted. He pushed his dog into Tinky-Winky's space, and she snapped at the dog. So, the guy demanded I punish Tinky-Winky. Um... no? First of all she didn't do anything wrong. The other dog was rude, albeit not of his own free will, and I support Tinky-Winky's right to put rude dogs in their place. If I was gonna punish someone, it would be the guy. A swift kick in the nuts would have done him good, I think. But the other reason I wasn't about to punish Tinky-Winky is, I have no way to do so, and she wouldn't understand it anyway. I've had her more than four years and she's never been punished. Neither of us would have any idea what "punishment" would look like.

Like any other behaviour modification trick, "punishment" isn't necessary if you have leadership. It's only a crutch for people who have to impose their will through petty, manipulative ways. My horse was the same way, she had no concept of me disciplining her. One time she bucked me off while we were trail-riding bareback in the woods. So I found a mounting block, and every time I stepped up on it, she'd turn her butt away so I couldn't get back on. I think she did it about eight times, and then I said to her "you do that one more time..." And that was it. She stood for mounting and we went on our way. I have no idea what I could possibly have done had she not listened to me. Neither did she. Somehow, the entertainment value of keeping me on the ground wasn't worth pissing me off.

That's the great thing about leadership versus... whatever it is you're doing. I don't need any form of bribe, threat, or nonsensical theories of what dogs are thinking. I don't need to manipulate animals with too much or too little food, or with clickers, or with choke collars. Or people, either. It works at youth group or at work just the same as it works with dogs, horses and cows. I want things. I let the beings around me know it. They do what I want. Everyone's happy.

But yeah, I'm sure whatever theory you're using to fail abjectly in modifying your dog's behaviour is awesome, too. If you're making no impression on your dog, surely it's not because he doesn't care what you want and your complicated behaviour-modification theory is worthless. Maybe it's just that you're doing it all wrong. I guess that all wouldn't matter if you'd just show some leadership instead, but yeah, your complete failure doesn't indicate that your theory sucks, necessarily. Maybe it's just you that sucks.


Adam said...

This post is very good! It makes a lot of sense. I guess the question I have is how do you establish leadership with your dog? I don't believe it's a have it or you don't. At some point, my guess is everyone can establish leadership. But how? What do you do? "NOs" with the dog, pretending to be a dog and throwing your dog on its back and showing ur teeth while growling may do it for some things. I've found my shiba, albeit a puppy (4 months), knows I'm her leader about 20% of the time. She is submissive with me after a few weeks of establishing this leadership, but she still doesn't listen. She doesn't come, she fetches when she wants, and she doesn't really like responding to her name. I hope in due time, leadership is established here, but I'm finding it's difficult to do. any thoughts?

Mongoose said...

I'll have to put some thought into answering this, but one thing I have to say is, it's hard for a four-month-old puppy to do anything consistently. She's just a baby.

And if she doesn't respond to her name, change it. Tinky-Winky came to me with the name "Bunny" and I never got a reaction out of her calling her that. The name I gave her, she responds to. Likewise my first dog, Scotland. For the first three weeks I had her, she answered only to "puppies". Because she'd always been called as part of her litter. So for three weeks I called her every name I could think of, such as Peanut, Freedom, Magic... Nothing. And one day I called her Scotland and she responded, so that became her name.

Adam said...

Great idea on the name. I guess a name I like may not always be the name the puppy chooses. And you are also right about the puppy - i have a hard time separating her refusing to learn and her not being old enough to grasp what I'm teaching her because all she wants to do is run around, sniff people, and eat things.

If you think of anything though or remember how you trained your puppy, please share. I'd be very interested. Your leadership post really makes sense, and I think that demeanor is critical to have if you want your dog to behave. I'll strive for that!