What are the 7 Qualities of a good leader?

Luzelle & Puppy Sage of HausTralis Malinois at Starbucks Botany Auckland

By Luzelle Cockburn

In the previous blog post we covered: How Good Leadership Can Help Your Dog, if you missed it, go and read that now because the 7 Qualities of a good leader will make a lot more sense once you read this. 

These qualities will also help you in every day life, so they are good to practice with other humans, and not just your dog. Let’s face it, good leadership skills are sought after. We value good leadership skills in others. Good leadership makes you and me feel safe, it can give you confidence. You are more likely to respect someone with good leadership skills. You might even give them the benefit of the doubt when they ask you something new. You are also more likely to listen to and follow someone who has good leadership skills.


Of course, a good leader is confident. They understand what needs to be done and they know that they can do it. Does a stressed-out-mess of a boss make you feel safe? No? Me either. You see if the boss doesn’t know what to do, how on earth are their staff supposed to get their jobs done?

Your dog is always watching you. And if you don’t know what to do you can always get help and ask someone who knows what they’re doing to help you (a good dog trainer can give you the tools and confidence to get you and your dog on your feet). You see, your dog is more likely to trust you and listen to you if you are confident, especially when they feel afraid.


Someone who can’t make a decision makes everyone’s life difficult. Such a leader holds up projects and again does little to inspire confidence. In fact, indecision makes people frustrated. But how does decisiveness affect your dog?

Well really, it goes hand in hand with confidence. It helps your dog become confident in you and helps them feel like you have a handle on the situation. It makes it easy for your dog to listen to you and helps build trust in you again. Decisiveness and confidence really goes hand in hand. You can’t really have one without the other as it will undermine your leadership.

“Good leadership skills are invaluable and once you learn how powerful these are, it will open up a whole new world of possibilities for you and your dog.”


Now who’s had an impatient boss that has been unfair? What about an impatient teacher when you didn’t understand what was required? Yup, I’m pretty sure you can relate to this one. But again, why is patience important when dealing with your dog?

Well, of course, you will need to teach our dogs various skills, including to come when you call, stay when you ask and other important skills you would like them to know that will keep them safe. And true, there comes a time when you have to take the training wheels off, but not too soon! Dogs learn in pictures, so just because you’ve trained a sit in the kitchen doesn’t mean your dog will automatically understand that sit means sit when you’re at the park. So patience is definitely required.

Patience is necessary because impatience will make your dog feel that you are unfair. It will break their trust in you. Be cautious of this because while your dog is forgiving, it can still be difficult to rebuild trust once it is broken.


This is fun, you see, how did you feel when your boss or teacher gave you responsibility? What about when they encouraged you and said, you can do this? You see, this is important and while all dogs can benefit, it will help your more nervous and younger dogs become more confident. Empowerment does not mean breaking someone down or bringing them down a notch. It means giving them responsibility, but of course, you also need to teach your dog to use their responsibility wisely.

Empowerment will often help your dog want to do stuff for you – because you asked. While this is especially beneficial for sport dogs, pet dogs can equally benefit from this. Ways I like to empower my own dogs is by giving them the responsibility for staying with me. Of course, they will make mistakes, but empowerment goes hand in hand with patience, because I allow my dogs to learn from their mistakes.

We also play tug of war, and I allow my dogs to win. I want them to enjoy the game. And who likes to play with someone who’s always winning? That’s not fun at all. I just had a session playing tug with my pup, Raven and it’s the first time she’s brought toys back to me. And I can tell you now, it’s not because I was winning all the time. Though empowerment I taught her that the game is fun with me and that keeping the toy isn’t as much fun. Later on of course, I’ll start asking more and more of her, and while I’m empowering her, I’ll start expecting her to make good decisions with her responsibilities.


A very important quality we would all do well to apply in all aspect of our lives. Let’s look at it from a selfish point of view first (as we’ve done with every quality so far). How do you feel when people say one thing and then do another? Don’t stick to their word or even lie to you? Well, your dog isn’t stupid, but whenever you aren’t keeping your word, your dog gets confused and it eats away at the trust they have in you.

OK, let me give you some examples. Make it clear when you’re playing and when you’re not playing. If you allow your dog to nip you during play that is fine (and your choice, others might not allow this, it’s just an example). Make it clear when play time is and when serious time is when you won’t accept nipping – don’t lose your temper. Teach your dog how to behave.

Another place where integrity comes into play is when you expect your dog to sit before you open the door and release them when they can exit the door. If today you expect it without a cue and tomorrow you let them rush out the door, you may as well be lying to your dog. You are not being consistent. And you are confusing your dog. You are not showing integrity, because tomorrow when you expect your dog to sit again and you are trying to hold them accountable for their actions, your dog is going to look at you like “what on earth are you talking about – you didn’t need this yesterday!”

I can probably write a whole blog post just on integrity and how important it is for your relationship with your dog. Maybe I will do that in the future.


Now, this is where reading your dog’s body language and getting to know your dog’s why is important. OK, let’s look back at how you appreciate insightfulness. How would you feel if your friend noticed something was upsetting you. And instead of making a scene, got you out of that situation and took you home so you guys could have ice-cream and debrief? That would be thoughtful. That would mean that your friend really understands you. It will likely strengthen the bond between you and your friend.

So how does insightfulness help you with your dog? Well, it’s slightly different. Bad experiences can make your dog feel stressed and likely take them down a downward spiral where they could become reactive towards other dogs. But, how about if you took charge of the situation. If you know your dog is a little nervous around other dogs, ask owners to please clip their leash to their dog, so that you can keep your dog safe. Little things like that.

Knowing your dog’s body language to get them out of a situation before it gets out of control. Understanding what your dog likes and doesn’t like, what they love and what they find scary. So you can help them not to be so scared of the scary stuff and keep them safe.


Yup, this one is totally on you. This doesn’t really have anything to do with your dog. But, what do I mean by Accountability? Well, hold yourself accountable, if you don’t know what to do, find out. Get the training that you and your dog needs. And apply it. If something went wrong, don’t blame your dog. Assess how you could have handled the situation better.

You see, you’re the thinking party in this relationship. If you want your dog to truly be your best friend, act like one. And, yes, I’m going to say that cheesy line “for every finger you point at your dog, three are pointing back at you”. You can only improve your life and the life of your dog through accountability.

Of course, you do need to hold your dog accountable for their actions too, but you can only do so after training which is your responsibility. Teaching boundaries is also your responsibility. So while you should hold your dog accountable – you first need to hold yourself accountable.

Qualities of a Good Leader

Of course, it will take time to develop your skills. But you will see a positive effect, not only in your dog but also in your every day life. Good leadership skills are invaluable and once you learn how powerful these are, it will open up a whole new world of possibilities for you and your dog.

Check out the next blog post Challenging Dogs that Taught me Valuable Lessons – and you can bet, they’re the ones who made me realise how important good leadership skills are!

Have you found this article informative? Tell us in the comments below and share it with your friends! 

Need Some Help with Your Dog?

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What information is in there? Tips to help you with walking your dog on lead, toilet training, problem barking and so much more!

Luzelle & Puppy Sage of HausTralis Malinois at Starbucks Botany Auckland

Hey, I’m Luzelle!

If it has to do with transforming your naughty, embarrassing, frustrating or worrying dog into an obedient, well behaved member of the canine society that you can actually enjoy spending your life with, I can help.

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