As I sit down to write about canine respect and leadership I find my thoughts straying to the rhetoric of the contemporary political campaigns. Humans have a kind of fascination with power evident in the dominance of contemporary politics. There are the spirited-type politicians with their fiery, impatient and direct approach, like Donald Trump. There’s Hilary Clinton who persuades with PAC contributions and barks like a dog pointing to fact checks. And then there’s a “HUGE difference” portrayed by Bernie Sanders who connects to issues and people wearing his cheap suit and refusal to accept the contributions of PAC money.
Do you remember, Sam Eagle, one of the puppet characters from The Muppets.
On Muppets Tonight, Sam Eagle periodically hosted a debate entitled From The Eagle’s Nest. His tagline for the show was “Let’s talk POLITICS!” Sam Eagle was known as a kind of censor and his lectures often exposed conservative ideas. Sometimes his talks ended abruptly to avoid the risk of sounding like a hypocrite.
At the risk of sounding “out of character and like a hypocrite,” I find myself asking: What, if anything, do political PACs and canine packs have in common?
The acronym, PAC, stands for the Political Action Committee, an organization that pools campaign contributions and donates those funds to campaigns for or against candidates, ballot initiatives or legislation.
Political PAC’s are all about power and money.
When a political PAC pools resources their power and ability to dominate and control grows exponentially.
Dogs are altricial, meaning need to be cared for, and live in packs with a dominant leader. Canines live in a culture where leadership is determined by who has access to resources and the ability to control, direct or inhibit the behavior of others. There are three basic aspects of leadership in canine culture:
- Control of or access to resources
- Proactive intervention
- Ability to control, direct or inhibit the behavior of others
The need for leadership is hard wired into the brains of all canine breeds. Whether the dog’s family consists of a “one dog and one person pack,” or a more complex social group made of many dogs and/or many people, each dog is seeking the same information:
- Who’s in charge?
- What are the Rules?
- Where do I fit in?
Leadership is the foundation for the dog’s understanding of how his world is organized, providing him with information about his relative status, directing his actions, and setting limits on his behavior.
It’s important to note that leadership and training are not synonymous. Training has to do with the specific actions or activities the dog knows how to do, such as basic commands: come, sit, stay. Adaptable and adept as the dog is, he still must act in accordance with his canine core. It is possible to have a highly trained dog who obeys a multitude of commands but has no respect for a human.
It is also possible to have a politician garner electoral votes and deny their constituents the fullness of life, (health care, women’s rights, immigrant’s rights, etc). With a diversity of challenges comes the need to remain open and attentive to the dynamics of the environment.
Perhaps, in a kind of Pavlovian way, humans can be trained to follow politicians with media soundbites or the promise of treats. But from a dog’s perspective only someone they respect has the right to control. While dogs need leadership, humans are not automatically given the role.
Regardless of one’s financial status, dogs grant precisely the respect you have earned.
Bottom line, whether you’re a Donald Trump growling at immigrants or Hilary Clinton barking like a dog, none of these 2016 political candidates will be voted leader in the world of dogs.