If Dogs Could Vote: Why We Could Learn a Valuable Lesson From Our Dogs About How to Choose a Great Pack Leader

If we could hold a debate with dogs as the audience, we'd learn a lot about the candidates. Dogs have had thousands of years of evolution, studying the faces, body language, and scent of the humans they travel with.
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How many millions of words do you think will be spoken and written this year by people trying to persuade you to vote for them? And how often will you hear promises that you already know in your heart will be forgotten as soon as the election is over and they have your vote?

It makes me wish that I could invite the candidates to my Dog Psychology Center and introduce them to my pack. Trust me, the dogs would quickly figure out who the natural Pack Leader is!

And one of the biggest advantages that the dogs have over human voters is that all those millions of words are just so much noise to them! The pack would make a tough audience for a town hall debate, because you can't lie to a dog -- their instinctive intelligence would see right through it!

Dogs -- and, in fact, all animals that live in packs -- will never follow an unstable leader. They know that balance and calm, assertive energy in a leader are essential to the survival of the entire pack. But humans will not only follow an unstable leader -- sometimes we will even go to the polls and re-elect them for a second or third time! The difference is that instead of trusting our instincts, we actually listen to all those words.

Every modern president has had dogs at the White House. I can't begin to imagine how tough that job is, but I know it would be impossible for me without the companionship of a dog. When you are under that kind of pressure, who wouldn't want a friend as loyal and trustworthy as a dog? And the beauty is that the dog doesn't care whether home is the White House or a park bench -- she'll love you just the same.

I'm always amused when I see a picture of a U.S. president, Republican or Democrat, with his dog. Here is the most powerful man in the world but the dog is calling the shots, pulling ahead on the leash and clearly taking control. It's something I have observed firsthand over the years with clients who are powerful figures in the business world but can't take the role of Pack Leader with their own dogs.

If we could hold a debate with dogs as the audience, we'd learn a lot about the candidates. Dogs detect authenticity -- they are very hard to fool. And most of the time they can read our intentions before we're even aware we've made a decision. They've had thousands of years of evolution, studying the faces, body language, and scent of the humans they travel with.

In this election, candidates are talking about the economic crisis, the jobs crisis, and the housing crisis. But I don't believe any of those is the real crisis. What we have in America is a leadership crisis. Why? Because too many of our political candidates are offering solutions without addressing the root cause of the problems.

It is the same thing that is wrong with a lot of dog training. The training addresses an issue, and maybe temporarily fixes it, but it does not get to the root cause.

If we really want to be sure of the right outcome, then we need to know our Pack Leader has the right principles: honesty, integrity and trust. These are qualities that dogs pick up on right away.

Let me tell you why I believe this is important. When dogs choose to follow a Pack Leader, they are putting their trust in him to lead them -- to set the rules, boundaries and limitations that will give their lives balance.

Dogs live in the moment and have no concept of tomorrow, let alone next year. They are putting their trust in the Pack Leader to deal with whatever happens.

Whichever candidate wins the election, one thing that is certain is that he cannot know the future and will have to deal with crises and situations that were totally unexpected. This is why it is so important to find leaders with the fundamental values that we can trust.

So how would a dog go about selecting a Pack Leader? Nature's Pack Leaders are born; these qualities are not learned. He will be a high-energy dog with a dominant personality. Most important, he will be calm-assertive. Dog or human, we want and need Pack Leaders who will not panic in a crisis but will demonstrate calm strength.

Being the Pack Leader is not about ordering everyone around. It is about taking full responsibility for the well-being of the pack -- every day, every week, every month.

Watch a pack of dogs, and you'll soon see the leader. His head is erect, his chest is out, with ears up and tail stiff. For dogs it can't be faked, and even if it could, the other dogs would spot it right away. Dogs are always looking for leadership, and if they don't see it -- if they spot weakness -- they will take over the role themselves.

When people say the country is going to the dogs, I say, I wish it was! When you see the problems we have in America, and then look at the way our representatives in Washington bicker and fight, it really makes me think we need a Pack Leader in Chief. In the early years of my career, I would walk out with 50 or more dogs off leash, including many breeds with strong dominant characteristics: Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, German Shepherds. We never had a problem because they were submissive to my energy as Pack Leader. Those are breeds that are not going to be submissive unless they are shown strong -- and consistent -- leadership. Maybe it is time our congressmen heard "tssst!"

So if they are not listening to the words, what would the dogs look for when they tried to decide on the next Pack Leader in Chief? They would look for authenticity and intention, and that is often expressed in body language. In a profile of me by Malcolm Gladwell a few years ago, a lot of attention was paid to my body language when I was working with dogs. It pointed out that a lot was communicated by posture not by words. And interestingly, it noted that this was something shared by President Reagan and President Clinton, considered two of the most effective communicators. Dogs intuitively pay attention to whether you are looking at them directly or not. They will pick up on calm steady breathing and whether you're leaning toward them or away. They're picking up cues from your facial muscles. The only thing that matters about the words you say is the way in which you say them. Is your intention clear? Can you be trusted?

This is an important election, and I can't help thinking it's too important to leave to humans. I think we need our dogs to help us pick the right Pack Leader!

Read more in Cesar's Way Magazine, on stands now and find out more about becoming a Pack Leader.

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