If you hired your dog as the CEO of everything, then what’s your job?
Look at it this way.
When the family dog is given the job of “Canine Executive Officer”…CEO…
does it mean that the humans are now the dog’s…what?…employees? Scary thought, indeed! Not exactly what most people have in mind when they get a dog.
So picture this. If you’ve ever wondered why the dog doesn’t “listen” when you tell him to stop whatever, or why he doesn’t come back when you call him, or why he leaves you “surprises” on your favorite carpet, then you just might have hired your dog as the CEO! Not on purpose, of course. But there it is.
So how does that happen? How did it come to this? That you hire your dog as the CEO?
Good question. A really good question! To figure it out, keep in mind these two facts about dogs:
- Dogs thrive in a social environment. Meaning, they love company and attention.
- Predictable routines let dogs feel safe. Meaning, they get thrown off their game if the rules change without warning.
Who’s running the show?
Inside their social environment dogs want to know who’s running the show. Forget about that old notion of dogs wanting to be “dominant”. Modern science says that idea is just so much BS. Dogs seek out a leader who inspires them to join in the action and who makes them feel safe. In their search for a leader, dogs auto-eliminate the bullies who threaten, intimidate, or confuse them.
A predictable routine gives your dog confidence. Knowing what comes next and what to expect from the people around him allows your dog to experience agency, that is, a belief that he has some control over the things that affect him. He figures out how to make his people feel happy so that their happiness works to his benefit.
OK. So dogs are manipulative like that – but isn’t that kinda what you sign up for when you get a dog? Sharing the playfulness, the friendship, and the comfort that dogs add to life. Isn’t that exactly what drew you to them in the first place?
Your dog as the CEO
But when does all that playful manipulation cross a line? At what point does your friend become your boss? Without even realizing it, did you actually just hire your dog as the CEO, the “Canine Executive Officer”?
Here are three of the ways that sort of thing can happen with dogs:
First. You confused the dog with either too much information or not enough. Dogs understand clarity – simple language and obvious actions that always mean the same thing. The problem starts when you treat dogs as if they already know everything that you know (example of a thing that you know: peeing on the rug inside isn’t the same as peeing on the grass outside). Dogs get really confused when you act as if they’re supposed to know what you think is right or wrong. And then, if you switch between ignoring your dog and then punishing for the same behavior, a dog probably figures that you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. That’s not what leadership looks like. A confused dog becomes the CEO of making sense of the information.
Second. You put the dog in an overwhelming situation without preparing or supporting him. When a dog is left on his own to navigate scary territory, he has only his instincts to save him. Socialization, when done carelessly, is the opposite of training. Consider, for example, a dog that’s uncomfortable around children. Surrounding that unfortunate dog with a crowd of kids is the opposite of training. It’s also massively irresponsible and a pretty stupid move. At what point will that dog be pushed so far beyond the threshold of his tolerance that he will break? This is a dog who becomes CEO to save himself – because nobody else has his back.
Third. You haven’t given the dog a good enough reason to pay attention to you. Dogs are incredibly efficient observers! They are aware of so much more than they get credit for. Their ability to detect and discriminate odors is a phenomenon that we can’t even begin to comprehend. It’s a fascinating world out there from a dog’s perspective. If you think about it like that, then you can start to see that it’s no easy task to teach your dog how to pay attention to you in the midst of all the competition.
That’s right – teach. As in, make it worth it for your dog to pick you instead of the squirrel! If you really want your dog to choose you, to pay attention to you, then you have to do the work. Attention is a gift from your dog that you deserve only if you nurture it and return that gift times ten. But – hey! You can still settle for being boring if you want to. And hire your dog as the CEO of what to pay attention to. So darn many choices!
Is it too late?
Can you help confused, overwhelmed, or distracted dogs? When is it too late to hire yourself as CEO and let your dog go back to being your friend and playmate?
The answer to that is of course there’s help! And it’s never too late to stop boring your dog and start becoming his leader! Watch your inbox this week because I’ll talk about each one to the 3 CEO’s and explain exactly what you have to do so that you can “fire your dog” and hire yourself! So…Stay tuned!
Wherever you’re reading this – email, blog, or Facebook – you have the ability to speak up. So, use it! What’s the one burning question about your dog that, if you knew the answer, things would change for the better? I’d love to know what’s on your mind! I personally respond to every question and comment!
We’ll be in touch soon. Meanwhile, be safe.