Business Lessons I’ve Learned From My Dog

There’s nothing like having man’s best friend around. They teach you so much about yourself and the world around you. I know for certain I wouldn’t know myself, my neighbours or my neighbourhood nearly as well if it wasn’t for my gal Lex.

I appreciate  her unconditional love every time she routinely saunters into my pet friendly office for a hug and a treat. I give both to her freely because dog days are good days.

And while Lex has been challenging me, making me a bit more responsible and modifying my behaviour for the last 6 years, the other day something clicked when I watched her snoozing. I realized Lex offers much more than I ever understood – and perhaps during her visits to my office she has been trying to show me something and not only coming for a hug and a treat.

Yup, even though I enjoy reading what our latest business thinkers like Seath Godin, Dan and Chip Heath and Sheena Iyengar have to say, I now think some of the best examples of best practices and organizational behaviour are literally – lying before me.


Before I list Lex’s business lessons let me give you one example. Last weekend Lex and I moved into my sister’s house for the weekend (with two other visiting dogs). With confidence she walked into the house and assessed the situation. She greeted every person – and every other creature, but I noticed she gave a wide berth to a few of the other guests. It was organizational behaviour – live.

Somehow, Lex’s combination of empathy, confidence and life experience enabled her to quickly evaluate the other two and four-legged creatures and to demonstrate effective communication skills. This is a simple example of the kind of assessment we all have to do when meeting a new co-worker, client or supplier.

Let me explain that last point. For you and I, a combination of our education, experience, background and social framework will impact our behaviour when we work alone or in a team. Rightly or wrongly (I’ll discuss that in another blog post), we also use this same information to judge ourselves and judge others; this includes what we expect of their professional behaviour. The complicated part ( and which is as often a recipe for office conflict), is when we mix personal and corporate needs and objectives into the equation.

So, in a world where organizational behaviour (OB), is a hot topic and everyone is impacted by challenging situations that are arising out of stressful workloads, off-site offices and multiple communication channels, I’m discovering that Lex has it all worked out. She has the solutions to help us all cope with our stresses and our conflicting priorities… even as she sleeps outside my office door.

So, here goes.

The Business Lessons I’ve Learned From My Dog.

  1. Loyal and dependable.
  2. Does not try to be something she isn’t – like a Poodle or Rottweiler.
  3. She’s aggressive when she or part of her ‘team’ is threatened.
  4. Works hard and enjoys it.
  5. Plays hard and enjoys it.
  6. Rests well.
  7. As long as our goals are aligned she is happy to work with me, if they are not, we are both frustrated by each others behaviour.
  8. Lex is almost always friendly to anyone whose friendly to her.
  9. When she is with others, sometimes she is the boss, sometimes she is an equal and sometimes she relinquished command. She is never absolute.
  10. Lex is comfortable being quiet and working alone (especially if there is a ball involved).
  11. Does not say things just to be heard.
  12. Ready to jump in.
  13. Always strives to please.
  14. Happy.
  15. She reminds me to be fair, to clearly outline my objectives, and to try to provide a positive environment where she can be secure, confident and happy.
  16. That every action (of mine), has a reaction (by her).
  17. She’s always up for a journey.
  18. Doesn’t linger on failure.
  19. Always finishes what she started (especially if it’s a meal).
  20. Appreciates the small things.
  21. Appreciates the big things just as much as the small things.
  22. Says thank you.
  23. Remembers friends – and enemies.
  24. True to her values.
  25. Loves attention.
  26. Appreciates kindness.
  27. Accepts positive recognition.
  28. Lives in the moment.
  29. If there is a barrier to her goal, she will look for other alternative solution.
  30. Not too sentimental to things – but cares deeply for people.


The value system, emotional intelligence, organizational culture, job design and the work environment are important elements in determining human behaviour. Similarly, Lex’s home environment and the confidence we give her are important elements that factor into her behaviour… and the lessons she is now teaching me.

Organizational behaviour evaluates and tries to predict the behaviour of an individual in an organization. While no two dogs, children or adults are the same, everyone will behave and communicate in according with their natural self, their life experiences and the environment around them.

All of these variables can be controlled to some extent. Sometimes training changes behaviour – sometimes training can only provide awareness so that the individual can (hopefully), demonstrate desired behaviour (like organizational values), in place of their instinctive behaviour. I’m still working on getting Lex to stop chasing the mailman.

I find this fascinating.

Now, I wonder what I can learn from my little boy Ben?

Happy communicating.

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Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

8 Responses to Business Lessons I’ve Learned From My Dog

  1. Anitti says:

    Hi Bruce !!! Its a very good and an interesting post too!!! Even I am going to follow few of the lessons you have learnt from Lex !!! But is it easy to follow all these behaviours in a business environment???

    • Bruce Mayhew says:

      Hi Anitti,
      Thank you for our comments and question.
      You asked if it’s easy to follow all these behaviours in a business environment.
      The short answer is yes – I believe it takes a combination of commitment, awareness and skill. The reality is that many of us have lost track of these three aspects of communication – aspects many of our parents and grandparents had only because the skills were taught and reinforced.
      Without going into detail, I think there are many reasons for this loss in our changing social economy. Partly I think we’ve lost because we communicate less frequently one-on-one. Another is that we listen to sit-coms (TV shows), that humiliate each other. Instead of learning how to listen carefully and not judge, we learn to react in a sarcastic, superficial manner and to take all comments personally.
      There are many other factors – but with a little time and awareness we can get back in touch with our own ‘personality’ and begin having more honest, real experiences.

  2. jeff noel says:

    Bruce, love this post. Great analogies. Amazing the teachers we have in our lives that go mostly unnoticed, especially those teachers at our feet..

  3. Dawna Roberts says:

    Hi Bruce,

    Having recently spent time with Lex and Ben, I can attest to the validity of these lessons. I too am impressed with the analogy and how although I have noticed some of these things with my own dog, I never thought of how they could relate in a business situation.
    Good on you.
    And thanks again to you, Lex and Ben for having us as houseguests!
    Dawna and V.

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I’ll enjoy reading your thoughts and your experiences.

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