Work Like a Dog

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Today my son Brandon shares 3 leadership tips he’s learned in his work as a professional dog trainer. Take it away Brandon…

“I love animals. I’ve always felt drawn to and connected to them, and luckily my family has too. One of my most cherished pictures is of my grandpa around my age with his dog Shep, taken almost 90 years ago. It is pictured below. And at one point while growing up, if my count is correct, we had a veritable zoo of 14 pets! 

The older I got, the stronger this connection became, specifically to dogs. So much so that a few years ago, I left my job after 11 years and began a journey into my new career as a professional dog trainer.

We can learn a lot from dogs about how to be effective leaders, and today I’ll share three of the biggest lessons about leadership I’ve learned from my canine companions.

  1. Follow Up and Follow Through.

Behavioral change does not happen overnight. I say this to every new client. It takes consistency to produce long term results. No dog will learn unless their owners follow through with the homework, and follow up with me if they have questions. But no owner will be fully effective with their dog unless I follow up on how it’s going, and follow through by showing them how to do things more effectively.

As leaders, we delegate tasks. But once it has been delegated, it is our responsibility to follow up and ensure that the people we lead have the tools they need to succeed. Check in, and if you say you will do something, follow through and DO IT. This will turn us into leaders that people want to follow.

  1. Set Clear Expectations. 

Just the other day in class, I was working with a Goldendoodle named Chloe. Her owners were frustrated because they couldn’t get Chloe’s attention. “Chloe, Chloe, hey Chloe, CHLOE!” they were yelling, all while Chloe happily sniffed a bag of dog food on a nearby shelf. 

With dogs and people alike, it is important to communicate clearly. For your organizations, know exactly what your goal or your mission is. And for any tasks you delegate, ensure that those actually doing them know exactly what is expected. Set them up to be successful by giving clear, simple, and complete instructions. Whenever a client is struggling, my first question to myself is always, “How can I explain this in a way that helps them understand better?”

I told Chloe’s owners exactly this, and once they gave Chloe her job, “Chloe, Come!” Chloe turned right away from the bag of food, and ran right towards her dad. She knew exactly what to do once the expectation was clear.

  1. Have Passion. 

Clients ask me all the time, “Why do the dogs always listen to you?” I always respond with, “because I’m having fun!” Dogs can literally smell the dopamine we release when we are happy, and it makes them engage with us better!

People and dogs are much more willing to work with someone who is passionate. The energy that a passionate person exudes is contagious, and it makes a leader someone that people will gravitate toward and aspire to follow.

Whether you work with people, dogs, or any other species out there, these are all things that will benefit us on our Leadership Adventures. 

This week, be thinking of people that may need some follow up, or anything you’ve said you will do but haven’t quite had a chance to do yet. Look for any unclear areas in your world and figure out how they might be made clearer. And finally, if you feel as though your spark has been dying out, try to reconnect with why you are in your leadership role in the first place. Reignite your passion for what you do.”

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