Leaders and Etiquette

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In the last post (Lead) we looked at group dynamics and some of the character traits that make for a great leader.  Now let’s look at how a good leader helps a group function more like a community.  If a leader’s actions aren’t about competing for resources, what are they about?

In order for a leader to be able to lead a group effectively and efficiently (which is what keeps the group safe), group members must be responsible for two things.

  1. They must pay attention to what the leader is doing and not get in his (or her) way (e.g., where he is going, how he reacts to any given circumstance).
  2. They must be respectful or hold themselves back.  

Social corrections or big behavioral exchanges involving a leader and a group member identify and address a lapse in one of these two crucial behavioral codes of conduct.  They are not typically motivated by comfort and resources.  This kind of social correction (from the leader) is about teaching and holding group members accountable and are usually received well (as in “sorry….my bad!”)….as a small part of a much bigger, beneficial relationship with a leader they’ve opted to follow….a leader who is leading the group they want to be a part of.  It is easy to think of regular, everyday exchanges when we talk about these two things, but it is important to remember that, in nature, responding (or not responding) to these two codes of conduct could mean the difference between survival and dismal failure, injury, and even death.

These are unwritten but understood codes of conduct…..let’s call them etiquette.   In functional and healthy groups, all members (including the leader) abide by these codes of conduct.  Be aware of others (most importantly, be aware of the leader).  Hold yourself back (have self control).  Following this etiquette enables an animal to notice and read subtle body language cues and relevant contextual clues which, in turn, enables it to respond in an appropriate (and successful) manner.  This approach leads to easy and very efficient communication within the group.  It enables a group of individuals to behave as one group….to live in harmony….to be a community.

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Can we use this etiquette to make communicating with our dog easy and efficient and to help our pack live in harmony and function efficiently in the very human world we live in?  YES.  For now, don’t think in terms of socially correcting your dog.  Instead, concentrate on teaching and maintaining standards of this etiquette.  For information on how to do exactly that, be sure to read the posts in the “Space is Important” category (space and etiquette are closely related topics).

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