I just realized that I it was a shocking number of years ago that I finished high school.
Some of my teachers are still there, teaching in the same style they always have. Some have retired. Three of my high school teachers stand out to me. I’d like to introduce you to them, and I hope that if they ever read this, they forgive my honesty for the sake of you learning a thing or two about dog-man-ship.
#1. Mr. B
Mr B was easy-going, he made the kids laugh, and his assignments were easy. He gave out bonus points for simple things, like just for attending class, or for writing our names on the top of our test papers. He told jokes, we could say a few cuss words in front of him, and he would laugh at the students’ antics.
He was well-liked by most that’s for sure.
But he had zero respect from us kids. It was not uncommon for kids to skip his class, knowing there’d be no consequence. Kids would talk in his class because what was he going to do about it anyway? No one would really try hard on his assignments because they knew he’d give them a passing grade either way.
Mr B tried to be the students’ friend. He seemed to have the philosophy that if he was liked by the students, then they would listen to him and learn from him. That didn’t happen. Instead, the students were distracted, they acted out, and they didn’t gain any benefit from his lessons. He was unable to influence the class in a constructive way.
Though I got along with Mr B, I didn’t respect him. I was generally a good student, and yet even I acted out in his classes. I didn’t take him seriously, I didn’t learn much of what he tried to teach, and I didn’t feel engaged in his classes at all. He didn’t capture me at all.
#2. Mr. U
Mr U was young, athletic, and cool. He wasn’t much older than my class as he had just finished his teaching training. Still wet behind the ears, he tried to control his students through force and intimidation. He would shout at the the students who were slacking off in gym class, he would strut through the hallways like a rooster, and he would use intimidation and threats of poor marks or visits to the principal’s office to get kids to do what he wanted.
Mr U tried to dominate kids. His philosophy was that if the kids knew that he was the “boss” or the “big man” or the “one in charge” then they’d respect him, listen to him, and do what he told them. He thought he’d be able to get his way through control.
That didn’t work. Some of the students feared him and did everything he said. I didn’t. In fact, I openly disrespected him. I remember he would walk right down the middle of the school hallways and rather than ducking against the wall to avoid him, I’d brace myself and allow him to walk right into my shoulder. If he wasn’t going to show me respect, he wasn’t going to get any from me. I also remember “defying his orders” and being sent to the principal’s office. I didn’t even cringe. He never got the respect he craved from me.
#3. Mr K
Mr K was quiet. He was calm. He was unruffled.
He was attentive, steady, and predictable.
He wasn’t overly sentimental, or gushy with the students, like Mr B.
He wasn’t cold, mechanical, or bullish with the students, like Mr U.
He was…neutral. With a warmth to him. Like an open-hearted neutral.
Everyone liked him. Not in the way that they liked Mr B, but they liked him because they felt safe with him. He was fair, clear, composed, and genuine. He would smile occasionally. His laugh was a special treat, but his eyes always had a warm sparkle.
His classroom was an organized, quiet, focused place where kids tried their best at the lessons he shared with them.
Even the worst of the worst kids never acted up in his class. I think he raised his voice once and that was enough to straighten out whatever had happened. Otherwise, he was unflappable. I recall one group of kids played a harmless prank on him where they used plastic wrap to wrap his chair to his entire desk. He walked into the room, saw the desk, and with a perfectly straight face, managed to open a drawer to get out a piece of chalk to teach his lesson for the day, as if nothing was amiss.
Mr K was a natural leader. Kids wanted to follow his lead because they liked him, trusted him, and respected him in equal measures.
We can learn a lot about leadership and dog-man-ship from these three teachers.
Dog owners who shower their dogs with needless treats, endless cuddles and belly rubs, and try to be their friend are like Mr B. They are insecure and they need their dog to like them so that they feel better about themselves. And while their dogs might like them, they don’t respect them. Those dogs take advantage of their owners and take the position of leadership (which they aren’t fit for) simply because their owner isn’t taking the lead. As a result, the dog might tell off the owner with a bark, growl or nip, not listen to the owner, feel stressed because they have to be in charge by being territorial or possessive, and/or other behavioural issues.
Dog owners who try to be boss are like Mr U. They are insecure people and they need their dogs to respect them so that they feel better about themselves. They push their weight around, boss their dog around, focus all their effort on maintaining their rank and status. They are concerned about the dog following their orders simply because they said so. The result of their dominance approach is one of two things. Either the dog is submissive, fearful, and anxious. Or the dog is dominant and is constantly challenging them, by not listening, showing aggression, being competitive, and/or other behaviour issues.
Dog owners who are leaders for their dogs are like Mr K. They are secure people who don’t need anything from the dog for themselves. They lead their dog to be the best version of themselves through calm, neutral care and compassion. They are predictable, quiet, unflappable, and safe. They hold their natural place as leader, making good decisions for their dog. As a result, the dog is calm and confident, wants to listen to them, follow their lead, and be in connection with them.
Thank you Mr B, Mr U, and especially Mr K, for these lessons that you never meant to teach.
It’s time to be brutally honest with yourself:
-Where do you see Mr B in yourself?
-Where do you see Mr U in yourself?
-How can you bring in a bit more Mr K to yourself?
Here’s to You and Your Dog