Business lessons we learn from our pets

Introducing Rosa, our new(ish) dog

Last year, we welcomed a young dog called Rosa into our home. We’ve been getting to know each other and are slowly learning how to live together. What that boils down to is creating trust, learning to speak the dog language and reinforcing desirable behavior. In the beginning, all we did was confuse the poor dog by trying to get her to understand us on our terms instead of hers. Silly me. Why would I take it for granted that my way of communicating is the only way or even the right way?

A dog sniffing a pile of leaves

Rosa enjoying a good sniff.

Pets help us be better at business

I’ve seen articles about how animals can teach us to be better people or live better lives. That in itself is great. What surprised me is how much living with a pet has let me practice important business skills such as tenacity, patience and focus.

Dogs take us back to the basics of communication: If we want to get through to them, we have to reframe what we want to say in terms that they’ll appreciate.

How’s that for walking a mile in your client’s shoes?

Things my pet lets me practice every day:

  • Don’t expect the others to sort through your jumbled thoughts for you. Come here, sit, no, drop, no, lie down, no, not there! Yikes! You have to be clear about what you want.
  • Focus on communicating the benefits: You can’t force things—no matter how determined you are. Instead, try to make it a rewarding experience for everyone.
  • Keep those treats coming.
  • It takes two to tango: Take a hard look at yourself before trying to place the blame elsewhere. If you think your dog is stubbornly refusing to behave, maybe your dog simply has no idea what you want it to do. That’s on you.
  • You can’t be in control of every situation: Your dog suddenly runs off for no apparent reason and refuses to come back. Now what? You’re more resourceful than you know and situations like this help you realize that.
  • Always be one step ahead of everybody else and nip troublesome situations in the bud. Does your dog hate joggers? Make sure you see them first and have a plan.
  • You may be mortified, but it will pass: You slipped up and your teenage dog did something silly. And other people saw it ( and maybe even laughed). Shrug it off—everyone else has already forgotten about it.
  • Don’t be scared of that big, bad dog running right at you. Stand up for yourself.
  • Good things don’t happen overnight.  Your dog has to practice every new command 2,000 times before it really takes hold. Work toward the important things instead of looking for quick fixes. Patience really is a virtue (and not something I have in abundance).
How dogs teach us lessons we can use in business.

Image source: Kamilia Wk, Unsplash (pretty dog but not mine)

School isn’t the only place to learn

Cat owners may have different lessons to share and parents can sing a song or two about the time and stress management muscles their offspring lets them flex. Learning doesn’t just take place at school. Many simple life skills we have already acquired somewhere else are invaluable for building solid working relationships with our clients.

What have you learned from your pets?

There are 2 comments on this post

  1. Alessandra

    “Many simple life skills we have already acquired somewhere else are invaluable for building solid working relationships with our clients.”

    I loved this down-to-earth, practical observation of yours, Else. I was mumbling along the same lines yesterday while watching a rugby match, considering how the “golden rule” of mastering the fundamentals to achieve positive results can indeed apply to more than rugby in general (or sports in general).

    Down to your question: coming from a long tradition of pets, I’d say relationships with animals also enhance our ability to read “signs” that go beyond vocals-based communication (e.g. position and movement of tails, legs, ears etc.).
    Paying attention to the non-verbal aspects of communication when interacting with clients can help us anticipate their reactions, and assess whether we need to adjust our own approach (in terms of clarifications, language we use, etc.) to meet on common grounds.

    Enjoy a lovely week!

    1. Else Gellinek

      Great point, Alessandra! I don’t that have much experience with pets and I’m slowly discovering how much I’ve missed out on.

      You have a great week yourself 🙂


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