My dog Finn is a great leader and an excellent teacher. The funny thing is, he doesn’t even try.
When we got Spike, our puppy, last year, his daily mission was to mimic Finn. He behaved like a pesky little brother, following Finn around all day, copying him.
Finn is well behaved and well trained because when Finn was a puppy, he copied his big sister Eleanor. Ellie was obedient because she copied her big brother Hooper. And Hooper learned from Zac. Zac was my first dog, a brilliant German Shepard. I worked diligently with Zac to train him, and I credit him for carrying and passing the “train the puppy” torch for the past 25 years.
Most of the things Spike has learned this year are from watching and modeling Finn.
For some reason, Finn won’t go down in our basement. He will sit at the top of the stairs, and no amount of coaxing will get him down those steps. All other stairs are OK, but not our cellar stairs. Finn will drop tennis balls from the top and watch as they bounce down each step, waiting for someone to toss them back up. He refuses to attempt even one step.
Guess what? Spike won’t do the cellar steps either. He trusts Finn has good reason to avoid them, and that’s all he needs to know!
Besides Finn’s quirky habits, Spike has picked up some beneficial things too.
All last summer, Spike followed Finn on our hiking trails on a leash. This year he graduated to an off-leash life, staying on the trails, not going too far ahead, and coming when he’s called. Spike will even abort his chase of a chipmunk or a squirrel when I redirect him.
Everyone who meets my dogs loves them and marvels over their behavior. I take some credit, but I can’t take it all. They’ve been following the leader.
In all areas of our life, we seek advice from someone who has gone first.
Leadership is best taught when it’s modeled.
This is why we say, lead by example.
One of the most excellent leaders of our time, John Maxwell, says,
A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.
The best leaders consistently do what they teach others to do.
That’s the cool thing about dogs. They don’t try to teach or train.
And instinctively, their younger generation follows.
We should take their lead.