This is a basic technique to support the hierarchical structure within my group of dogs. There is a lot of social dominance within my group as with any group of dogs and its true that in many cases possession does count. But how, do we know who is the leader of this group? Anton the largest dog in this video is by far the strongest of our four dogs and does not generally get involved in squabbles that the others do, but strength alone does not make a good leader. Anton and Ralph the Cocker Spaniel, another one of our rescue boys have a kind of love and hate relationship. Ralph is very vocal and extremely sensitive to environmental changes. Despite Anton’s vastly superior strength advantage Ralph will often confront Anton barking in what appears to be a highly confrontational manner. Despite Ralphs behaviour towards Anton, Anton has on the majority of occasions turned away from Ralph and diffused the situation. So, what makes Anton stand out as a good leader of our group, and why do I support him? Anton has on only two occasions reprimanded Ralph severely by getting him onto his back and mouthing him around the neck, but has never caused any injury. Anton could quite easily kill Ralph in these confrontations but he chooses not to. Anton is extremely tolerant and it really does take a lot of provocation to elicit this behaviour, so why does he show such restraint. Sadly, despite a plethora of evidence there are still many people who think that rolling dogs onto their backs, being the strongest or just plain aggressive and despotic are the signs of a good leader. In human history there are many examples of despotic leaders who seem to get to much attention. Ask anybody for the name of a despotic leader and we would think Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, Mugabe, whenever I turn on the television there is a documentary on Adolf Hitler. But what of those good leaders that did not lead through fear and suppression, Mandela, Martin Luther King, Gandhi? I can’t remember the last time I saw a documentary of any of these on television.
Does Anton believe that Ralph is better off alive than dead? Does Ralph bring something to the group that Anton recognises that is important to it’s cohesion? Anton could easily lead the group through fear but chooses not to, this is the sign of a great leader. Does Anton recognise that Ralph is struggling with his social cohesion skills? Recognising the strengths and weaknesses of the group, showing restraint and compassion, empathy, calm, assertive and understanding are all qualities that Anton displays and why I recognise and support him as the leader of our little group. I believe that this displays a theory of mind, Anton understands that Ralph is not seriously threatening his position within the group and that by showing restraint, compassion and empathy the other dogs within the group are more likely to work with him. Is this a link back to Antons ancestral past? If a group of wild dogs or wolves split, with one group led by fear and the other by cooperation, empathy and understanding, who would prosper? Successful hunting, breeding and longevity need a cooperative leadership style not a fearful one. Some of you may think, surely I should be the leader of the group? I’m not a dog and no matter how proficient my canine communication skills I can never be a dog. What skills do I have that my dogs need to ensure the cohesiveness of it? Quite frankly non, and me rolling around on the floor pretending to be a dog must be hilarious and somewhat confusing to them.