Yesterday I had to go to the airport to pick up a dog, and it reminded me of my last time there. At the Salt Lake city Airport, if you’ll be gone for a few days and need to park, you insert your credit card to open the gate. You go in and park, and when you leave you put your credit card back in. No tickets, just your card.
The last time I came back from a trip I’d been in Hawaii to work with a client. I got my car, and as I was pulling out I got to the gate. It was about eight in the morning, and at that time ten or fifteen of the gates were open. Not a lot of people arrive or leave at that hour—I was the only one! As I pulled in, I got out my credit card to put it in the machine. I realized that my credit card was in my wallet, which was in my luggage, which was in the back of the car. So I got out, and another car pulled up right behind me.
In my mind, I was “What are you doing? Why would you pull up behind me? There are literally fifteen of these gates have signs that let you know that they are open. You could have chosen any of them, but they pulled in behind me. As I’m rummaging in my luggage, I see the guy in the car throwing up his hands in frustration, as if he can’t believe he had to wait for this. Normally, I feel upset with myself if I hold other people up in public. But this time, I wasn’t. I was just laughing!
This ridiculous event, however, reminded me of an important principle: all social creatures want some sort of leadership. Now, this driver didn’t want me to lead him. But he’d pulled into an area that he wasn’t very familiar with, and assumed that I knew what I was doing and that he should therefore follow my lead. Because he was unfamiliar, he needed a bit of leadership.
Every social creature is this way. Humans, dogs, horses, primates—they all crave leadership. Some people are more “leader-like” than others, but even they want to be led in some areas of their lives. No one believes that they know everything perfectly, even if they act like it.
Dogs are the same. They’re the goofy ones sitting behind us in the airport checkout lane, hoping that we can guide and lead them. If you think about it, a lot of things are very foreign to them. We were born into this domesticated world, and we can communicate with each other about it in order to understand it. That makes us a lifeline for our dogs. They need us to lead them, not by micromanaging every component of their lives but by clearly showing our dogs what’s expected of them. That is the leadership that your dog needs, not some sort of domineering “tough guy” treatment. If you can provide healthy leadership, then your dog will thrive!
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