Authority Lessons from the New Pooch

Years ago, I learned about my limitations from a dog I rescued up the road. This summer, when we picked up this rascally-angel from the pound, I sensed we were in for it.

 Tucked herself right into OUR bed

Tucked herself right into OUR bed

Kedra (for my Facebook followers who saw the post introducing her, {click for cutie-pic!} there really is no “n” in her name, it’s just that since everybody adds it, I thought I’d simply introduce her that way), the new addition to the family, is a lover, a cutie-pie and a complete princess. She thinks she runs the house, owns all the furniture, and naturally that it’s her job to protect it (and us). A delivery man making an appearance virtually trembled at all 23 pounds of her jumping at the door. Her barking — mostly driven by excitement — was high pitched and ferocious.

After growling and lunging at two visiting dogs, we thought, we’d better teach her some manners.

I’m finding that crate training a dog that thinks it owns your house is challenging and exhausting for many reasons, but doing the job well requires that I hold firm to the task at hand: Making it safer for her and the sentient beings coming to my house, by temporarily restricting her. Easier said than done.

When I teach people about professional and relational authority, I emphasize the importance of really knowing, and then doing, your job. My job is to treat her fairly and firmly, and establish a new protocol. It is NOT to be nice, use her for my own comfort needs or appease her whining when she doesn’t appreciate the restrictions.

Oh, but how I struggle! I hear that crying and I want to attend to her!

This is what makes standing in authority so challenging for equal opportunity relaters like myself. When your job requires the type of leadership that involves getting others to understand and do their jobs — whether it’s with an animal, a child, at work or with your partner, even if you discover the kindest way to lead, you still might feel (and be afraid of being accused of being) bossy. Or pushy. Or controlling. Or any number of negative behaviors that present themselves when power is involved. It’s good to be aware of how you are being perceived, but worry too much about it, and you’ll be wading in your own gunk instead of doing your job.

When we have to correct an employee, a child or even stand up for our needs in the face of scrutiny, how do we stay in our authority?

By keeping an eye on the outcome, and staying connected to the task at hand. I keep reminding myself that at the end of this training, Kedra will be calmer, more contained, and feel less anxious about separation and needing to protect us. It’s already shifting to a degree. Sometimes I get scared and doubt the protocol, fearing it won’t work. But that is the risk we always take when leading change or transformation, no?

What challenges are you currently experiencing with standing in your authority — at home, at work, in love? Let me know! (Your stories are welcome, but spare me the unsolicited advice about dog training, please!)

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