My Dogs Taught Me How To Lead [Your Guide To Being A Man]
Dogs choose their leader. They do it by recognising the energy and the strength the top dog. Yes, they fight amongst themselves for it, but usually it’s just a display of confidence, there is no compulsion.
When I was living in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in southern Spain I used to go walking in the hills with a small pack of dogs. I was living there to look after a Cortijo and three dogs. One morning I was out for a long walk with them thinking about my life, as I often do! It occurred to me that what was happening was a great metaphor for being a man and being a leader. The way my pack of dogs behaved was fascinating, to say the least.
My Pack of Dogs
It is important to understand that dogs are pack animals, they love running together and quickly set up a hierarchy according to their personalities and territories.
Dogs, like wolves, are pack animals. Get a few dogs together and you will see the pack instinct appear. The dogs will stay close to each other, and will do the same types of things at the same time. A hierarchy is formed, with some of the dogs being dominant, and some submissive. If you have more than one dog, or if you introduce a new dog to a group, you may well have problems while they sort out the new hierarchy, but once it is sorted, life will settle down.
Sissy, one of the dogs I was looking after, is a small female terrier who grew up in the noise and chaos of New York. She was used to being on her own and being made a fuss of. She was always top dog among humans.
Harvey is a hairy male mongrel who grew up in the mountains in Spain but has always been an intruder into Sissy's territory. She had established it before Harvey arrived. He is a herder and likes to walk at the back of the pack. He likes to keep together while Sissy is out front, that way they are both happy.
Toby is a young male puppy who has no idea about anything other than bouncing around attacking anything that moves. He is yet to understand his place, although the growling from the other two is helping him to learn quickly.
Then, of course, there is me. As far as the dogs are concerned I am part of the pack as well. We walk together with no leads and they herd around me. Although Sissy is notionally top dog she knows that really I am. She is well used to humans leading. She knows I am being a man! I feed them and I decide when to go for a walk and where to go. I don't tell them anything or make them do anything, they choose to follow me, or at least to run around me.
Being A Man - Knowing What You Want
In the morning when they see I am ready to go for a walk, that is putting my shoes on, they are all over me in excitement. They can go on their own, and sometimes do, but to have us all together, including me, that they love.
They run around, chase each other, hunt for food, smell the territorial marks and generally cause chaos. I just walk. I know where I am going and how long I am going to be. They do not ask and are not interested, they just take my lead. I assert my position as top dog by knowing what I want, being confident in it and just going for it. They run around with me always as their centre of gravity. They may disappear for a while, but they always come back to run with me.
That, for me, is what leadership is about. It's knowing what you want and going for it, in other words being a man. Those around you stay focused around you because they chose to, they trust your certainty and give you your leadership. You can never make people follow you. People often try this with dogs and they have chain them up or take them on a lead to pretend they are in charge.
Dogs choose their leader. They do it by recognising the energy and the strength of the top dog . Yes, they fight amongst themselves for it, but usually it's just a display of confidence, there is no compulsion.
...dogs form dominance relationships, a fact that's been known for some time for dogs living with humans and for free-ranging dogs who are on their own or mostly on their own, that their rank influences group movements, and that by looking at movement patterns the researchers could reliably determine an individual's dominance rank and personality.
Being A Man Having A Display of Confidence
This is also relevant to being a man, not the fighting bit but the display of confidence bit. Families succeed when the man is certain and understands his family's needs, They look to him as their rock, their certainty and love him. This is not to belittle the important role of the woman. She is often the herder, the one who cares and loves. But she can just as easily be the rock, it depends on the pattern of the relationship, and the amount of self-confidence in each individual in the relationship.
Self-confidence is the fundamental basis from which leadership grows. Trying to teach leadership without first building confidence is like building a house on a foundation of sand. It may have a nice coat of paint, but it is ultimately shaky at best. While the leadership community has focused on passion, communication, and empowerment, they've ignored this most basic element and in the process they have planted these other components of leadership in a bed of quicksand.
Nowadays there are so many broken families because the men do not have this certainty. They have lost their confidence and do not know where they are going. The families cease to trust them and fall apart. The woman is left, often fulfilling both roles, while the man just lets his responsibility go.
It just may be that boys growing up where fathers — and men more generally — appear superfluous confront an existential problem: Where do I fit in? Who needs me, anyway? Boys see that men have become extras in the lives of many families and communities, and it can't help but depress their aspirations.
So thank you to Sissy, Harvey and Toby for helping me to understand leadership and men, for leading me to being a man.
Then there is Bubbles...
How Bubbles The Stupid Dog Is Inspiring
Bubbles is a Spanish Water Dog. I looked after her during a house-sit in Australia. Her favourite game is to chase balls that you throw for her. How is that inspiring? She places the ball at your feet and stands waiting for you to throw it. All the time she is focused on you, gazing expectantly into your eyes. You throw the ball and she hares after it, brings it back and the whole process starts again.
Most pet dogs, no matter what breed we have, used to be bred for other reasons. All breeds of dogs have their own unique traits encoded in their DNA. Their natural instincts are still within them. These traits include their need to dig things up and bury things.
Their instincts also urge them to run after moving objects, catch them, and chew them to bits. They love to jump around and explore and retrieve things they find and bring them back to show us. As responsible owners, we should encourage our dogs to use these instincts during playtime. This stops them becoming bored and frustrated with their life.
This is a favourite game for many dogs, so what's the difference with Bubbles. Her good-natured persistence is a amazing. She will play this for hours without fading. The way she plays is a great lesson for us all. The great qualities that she displays that we could all learn from can be summed up as follows:
She knows what she wants.
This is critical in shaping our lives. Where are we going? What are we trying to achieve? Do we know what want from and in our lives? What is inspiring? In the first part of this article I explored what this means in our lives.
She asks for what she wants.
How often do we bemoan not getting what we want, when we have never even asked for it? Do we know how to ask? Do we know what to ask for? Too often we expect things to happen and we expect what we want to magically appear. I have found a amazing difference when I ask for what I want.
She expects to get what she wants.
Do we have certainty about what is going to happen? Do we live our lives expecting to live our dreams, or do they remain remote and unattainable? It is so important to have a clear idea of what we want, partially so we know what to ask for and partially so we can recognise it when it appears, when we succeed.
She never gives up.
Are we sure and keep going? Can we weather the rejections and the times it doesn't happen? Do we have the courage to keep going because we know it will happen? We all know stories about the people who turn back just before reaching the target ow inning the prize. Do we, however apply it to our own lives. Are we capable of keeping going?
She is grateful when she receives it.
No matter what we have endured on the way, are we truly grateful for what we get? Do we resent the rejections or do we celebrate all the steps on the way? How often do we show gratitude or genuinely that those that helped us achieve success. Unfortunately often we just expect it to happen and do not appreciate it.
She always wants more.
Once you achieve your goal do you keep going? Do you lift your Vision, re-visit your goals and want more? Do you treat your Vision as an end and give up once you get there? Is life still inspiring? Life is littered with broken men who achieved their vision, such as walking on the moon, leaving them with an empty life. Can you find new life and hope?
She does it with rapport.
Do you enter the world of those you are trying to enroll in your Vision, or do you annoy them into supporting you? Do you find out what's in it for them, or what's in it for you? How are you inspiring? To value the support of others is an amazing way to give back in life. It can be so rewarding.
Bubbles is an inspiring teacher and she doesn't even know it, she's only a dog. Hmmm... could this be a lesson for us all?
The Final Lesson
What comes out of all this is the undeniable fact that dogs have a great deal to teach us about life and how we live it, especially in being a man. The major reason for this is that they constantly live in the present,
Although dogs remember things like where the treats are kept, what street takes them home and who they've met before, they only access that information when they need it -- in the moment. Whether they're eating a bowl of kibble or chasing a ball, dogs live for the present moment. The past is gone; you can't do anything about it. The future is unknown. The only thing you can really enjoy and affect is the present moment.
So let the past go and stop worrying about the future. Live in the moment and enjoy it.