The Art of Discipline

If you are a boss, parent, teacher or have control over others you are an authority figure. How that authority is used will communicate to your group if you know how to lead them.  Ask someone what makes a good leader and you will hear words like calm, confident, self-assured and fair.

The reason so many people have trouble getting their dogs, employees or kids to listen is that they don’t know how to properly communicate leadership to those they need to lead.

A close friend was talking about his small business with me over the holiday’s. He has about 10 employees and said he was having trouble getting everyone on the same page and may have to start letting people go if things don’t improve. I have known this guy since I was a kid and he has always been a little over reactive to stressful situations and a pushover all at the same time. As a result he is terrible at enforcing the rules and then very emotional, reactive and a blow hard if he thinks your "not doing it right." 

I told him this is like my clients who insist their dogs know the rules because they “alpha role” them every time they don’t listen.  This forceful approach is limited because leadership comes from making the pack feel safe and secure - not afraid. If you look at your business or family more like a pack it can simplify your role as a leader. Good pack leaders gain respect and trust by using energy and discipline to enforce the rules, not fear and intimidation.

To get my pack to follow I make sure they are fulfilled every day. They repay that fulfillment with trust, respect and loyalty. Part of that fulfillment comes from correctly enforcing the rules. I must enforce them with calm/assertive energy because if I am tense, angry, frustrated or use threats I am using unstable energy and dogs won't follow unstable leaders.  Humans are the only species that will folIow unstable leaders.

Kids need parents to be good pack leaders. Kids need proper discipline for the same reason my dogs do. When kids and dogs are not properly guided they become overwhelmed and confused.  If you are having trouble with your dog you should look at your parenting style. If you are structured with your children but not your dogs you may have found your answer. Its not uncommon to see parents who don’t enforce rules with their kids also have behavioral issues with their dogs.

I was once called to a house because dog had seemingly aggressed towards their young child out of nowhere. No damage was done as the dog only “mouthed” the boy but cases like this rarely have a happy ending for the dog.

The answer to why the dog aggressed was all too apparent when I entered the home. The young boy at the center of the problem was the most misbehaved child I have ever seen...ever! The kids you see on the nanny T.V shows had nothing on this little boy. He screamed, kicked, yelled and controlled every second of his parents during my visit. When he did not get his way he would instantly go into tantrum mode. It was amazing!

The parents energy was completely drained and defeated and the mother had admitted many parents fundamental mistake. She thought using discipline would communicate to her son that she did not love him. She was a pleaser and felt always saying yes was the best way to convey her love. I could also tell that the dad had checked out months or years ago. Kids are as sensitive to energy as dogs and the boy could sense but not understand his parents weakness. He knew his parents didn’t have control, so who did?

The child felt the same thing in his parents that dogs can feel in us and it had the same outcome I often see.  The lack of discipline taught the boy that he was in charge and when that happens it creates chaos in a child's mind.  When dogs feel chaotic they dig, destroy things, aggress, act nervous, have separation anxiety and so on.

Have you figured out why the dog went for the kid yet? The dog was trying to tell the parents what needed to be done. The dog easily recognized their inability to lead the child so he took control and disciplined the boy himself. The action they read as aggression was actually how dogs enforce discipline on one another.  Pack leaders will growl at, muzzle punch, and sometimes nip at other dogs to enforce the rules of the pack. This dog weighed 85 lbs. He could have seriously injured or killed the child if that was his intention.

This dog had no intent to hurt the boy and was only trying to communicate to the parents what the boy needed. The boy’s crazy out of control behaviors are also a communication to the parents that something is wrong. If you are having problems with any leader/follower relationship your answer may lie with your dog. Fido wants you to be balanced and he is always telling you how well you are doing. Listen to him.