Clear leadership benefits all: what dogs teach us

Life just threw me a curve ball in the shape of a Jack Russell! As a dog behaviourist I Grey wolfwork with people facing ‘canine issues’. In reality, this often means I work with dogs facing human issues! Our furry friends have much to teach us about leadership and clear communication. My new buddy Jackson insists I ‘walk my own talk’ every day…

He recently landed in my world along with his behavioural baggage. Having displayed ‘undesirable tendencies’ he was in an all-too-common position – heading straight back to a rescue centre. This was not an option. I could make a difference. Let down by humans and bounced from one unstable environment to another, he deserved better. He deserved a good leader.

Dogs require leadership to feel secure. It is hard-wired into their DNA, 98% of which is still wolf. Most varieties of our domestic pets may not look much like their ancestors but the instincts of their wild counter parts remain. It is fairly common knowledge that a wolf pack has to have an ‘Alpha’. From a dog’s perspective therefore, if stable leadership is absent within our own ‘packs’ it will promote itself to CEO! An impossible job for a canine in a human world.

Without an understanding of canine communication most of us inadvertently give dogs incorrect signals. Lost in human/canine translation, confusion reigns and unwanted behaviour often ensues. Sadly, the result of this can be catastrophic; we hear too many stories of savaged kids, abandoned and euthanised dogs.

Thankfully, most people are too responsible to allow such tragedies to occur. They call someone like me before the problem escalates. And there is good news! Most dog owners experience far less severe issues and much can be done. When we take charge and learn their language, we also benefit from a joyful relationship.

We simply need to embrace our responsibility and be their best friend 🙂

My top five tips on leadership:

  1. Always be calm, consistent and convincing
  2. Communicate with the listener in mind
  3. Be clear about what you want
  4. Learn as much as you teach
  5. Enjoy discovering new skills

About the Author:

Linda Seren is our Training Coordinator at Holst. She is also the Owner and Head Behaviourist at Different Dogs. Linda brings strong leadership to both roles. Contact her at

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