Since the resurrection of the dominance ideology a few years ago, I hear dog owners use the terms alpha and pack leader all the time. The question is if, or if not, dogs need a leader. It is disputed by some behavior-purists, but in my opinion, they do.
But not because they are status seeking little demons the moment they invade our homes and hearts, but because they inherently know, as a species, that we have the power to provide, keep them safe, or harm and hurt them if we so choose. Humans, since domestication some 12.000 years or so ago, were dogs’ lifeline. Even non-owned "Village Dogs", a term coined by Dr. Raymond Coppinger that describes dogs that live in the periphery of human settlements in every region on this planet, live on human waste around garbage dumps. Dogs, as a species, flourish because they hang out with people.
When a pup or rescue dog moves into the midst of humans; his new family he knows nothing about, he seeks a couple of things - social acceptance and the feeling of safety. He needs to find out how he will get that, and all the other stuff he wants like roasted chicken, bones and toys, and a cushy place to rest. And that's where the humans come in. Only the people who are members of his intimate social group can explain how his world works from now on. The world he's thrown into. Not every dog needs to belong to people, but once they do because we chose to buy or adopt one, they rely on those very people for provision and protection. And that's leadership.
Studies proved that humans and dogs and other mammals learn best when taught without coercion. Completely without force and punishments. And that's Mindful Leadership. Teaching the dog what he needs to know to fit in, while at the same time decreasing fear and stress - the cause of most problem behaviors.
For people to be Mindful Leaders they need to understand how dogs communicate, what they are motivated by, what stresses them out, and how to teach in a way the dog can comprehend. In future posts I want to chat about all that, and sometimes also other dog related topics that occupy my mind. I am studying and working with dogs professionally since 1995. I want to share with you the finer nuances of body language and behavior - for dogs' sake, so that as many as possible live a life free of fears. As a nice side-effect, a content and emotionally balanced dog is typically a well-behaved one, which makes the owners happy as well - and society at large.