What happens when we look at ideas and behaviors in a variety of contexts? When we think about ‘discipline’ and ‘dogs’ most of us think in terms of taking our pets to obedience training. “Sit. Stay. Shake.”
Have you ever thought about what they can teach us?
Many parents are uncomfortable with their role as family leader – our best friends can help here, too. Dogs have strong instincts about rules, order and etiquette as they relate to preserving the pack. When a new puppy tries to take its place within the group, an older dog will make clear the rules and boundaries.
There are lots of rules. Puppies learn them all – quickly.
“Here’s where you can sleep. I greet the humans first. You get the second cookie and that’s my squeaky toy – you can never, ever touch it. Ever.”
Are the consequences for messing up? You bet. When the senior dog disapproves everyone know it: loud, dramatic barking and growling punctuated by an occasional bite for the one who just doesn’t ‘get it.’
Alpha dogs come in different breeds, sizes, shapes and colors. They have different personalities and “styles” but the have a lot in common:
1) They don’t nag – their ‘word’ (or look or growl) is law. One look. What they want is very, very clear – and punishment for those who disobey is swift, sure and unmistakable.
2) Alphas don’t feel guilty. They know that the survival of the pack rests squarely on their ability to teach their pups proper behavior. It’s just what needs to be done – there’s no emotion attached.
3) Alpha dogs do not need the pups’ approval. They’ve got a job to do and they don’t care who likes them. They get it done. (And the pups reward them with total admiration and devotion. Go figure.)
4) Discipline takes a variety of forms – sometimes it’s loud and dramatic, sometimes it’s a ‘time out’ away from the rest of the pack…. sometimes it’s just the raised eyebrow that reminds the offending youngster.
5) They are fair. The intensity of the correction matches the offense.
Families need strong, fair leadership. Kids (whether canine or human) need to know the boundaries and the consequences for violating them. Dog: really is a Mom’s best friend.