Regardless of any business commitments, an important part of my day is to make sure my dog’s needs are met and he is happy. For any pet lover, you will know this is a priority. If you do not have a pet so far – get one. You will learn a lot about life and business from them.

Shadow, my German Shepherd knows me and my business very well. He sits beside me in my office when I’m working. He knows when it’s time for me to get out from behind the computer screen or to get off the phone and take a break. He’s a major player in my life.

Here’s just some of the valuable lessons my dog has taught me:

Lesson one: Make Learning Fun

Having spent six months in training class trying to get a once very young Shadow to follow commands wasn’t working out. One of the early tasks to get our dogs to give us eye contact was to tie them to a fence, ignore their cries for attention and finally reward them with a treat when they complied. Once settled down, quiet and giving eye contact, we could join the main group for the more disciplined training.

I was the only dog owner in the class spending six months (and a fortune in cash) with a hollering barking dog, hell bent on tearing himself from being tied to a fence, totally ignoring me. We didn’t make it through to the discipline stage.

I decided to try some methods of my own at home and make it a game. Placing small treats under plant pots placed in the garden and asking Shadow to sit and wait for the command to seek the treat was much more beneficial. He’d watch me, eyes riveted to my face, waiting for the command to start the game. Then he’d eagerly race over to find the pots and work out how to retrieve the treat from under each one.

The lesson: How often do we make learning activities fun? We learn when we are enjoying and involved in the activity.

Lesson Two: Patience

It’s not something we’re born with. Patience is something we learn.  For instance, being woken up at 3.15 am because a cat is the garden or on the conservatory roof.  Once in the garden, refusing to come back indoors because the flowers smell nice in the early morning dew and relieving himself over them is an essential, long drawn out task. Deciding to ignore my pleas to come back in, I leave Shadow out there. Early morning barking does not go down well with the neighbours. Eventually a game of chase for 30 minutes or so brings Shadow back indoors having enjoyed the session immensely.

While we’re on this subject, what on earth possesses dogs to bury things? Giving him a juicy bone yesterday, I return to find he’s buried it in a plant pot in my conservatory. Soil and leaves everywhere and the once fluffy blue rug now a distinctly dark shade of soil.

The lesson: Patience is a virtue and every frustration is an opportunity to master it. Stay calm and in control at all times.

Lesson Three: Persistence

How often do you feel like giving up if something doesn’t work out the first or even second time? Perhaps you’ve not followed up with that sales lead to track down an order? Maybe you didn’t persevere to finish a course you started. Without persistence, goal setting and a success mindset, many of the great discoveries in the world would never have happened. Persistence is important for success, happiness and well-being.

Persistence pays off. Shadow knows when I am busy that he has to be persistent when he wants a walk. He sets about breaking my attention with a noisy stretch ambling  over to me and placing his head on my knee. Then his tail starts to wag … very noisily against my desk. If that fails to get my attention, then pushing his body under my desk where he doesn’t really fit, causes me to move my chair. That’s another invitation to place himself directly in front of me and give me the soulful eye look. Works every time!

And of course, we both benefit from his success, with increased health, happiness and well-being.

The lesson: When you feel like giving up on a task don’t. With a little persistence, you will get the success, happiness and increased well-being you deserve. Persistence always pays off.

Lesson Four: Inquisitiveness

Every dirty sock, soiled nappy, handbag, open dishwasher, toilet with seat left up – is of major interest. It has to be fully explored, nibbled, chewed, drank from or taken and buried. Everything is of interest. Nothing is ignored.

Dogs maintain their inquisitiveness throughout their life, and Shadow is no exception. Visitor’s get the sniff test, and if they smell nice are deeply explored in their most interesting places (much to my and their embarrassment).

What happens to humans? We stop being inquisitive. We often lose that sense of exploring and finding out about life.

The Lesson: Learn to be more inquisitive. Ask more questions. Listen more deeply. Try something out to see how it works.

Lesson Five: Meditation

Meditation is an essential part of life. Or in a dog’s life – chill out time. You need it to be able to stay alert and spring into action at the slightest sound or movement that is out of the ordinary. Even a spider walking across the floor can immediately rouse the sleepiest of dogs. The postman delivering the mail is a cause for major alert.

As humans we are so busy, busy, busy. Often we do not notice the small, meaningful things in life. We tend to forget the little gestures that make others feel important. In doing so, we get stressed out and lose our sparkle.

Take some chill out time today. Close the computer down, switch off the phone. Be quiet. Take a walk in nature. Meet a friend for coffee and chat. Read that book you’ve always said you would read. Sit outside in the sunshine.

The Lesson: Switch off to switch back on. Come alive and start to LIVE!

Lesson Six: Trust

Watch any dog and you will see whether or not they trust or even like a person. Shadow is no exception. He is ultra sensitive to people. If he doesn’t like someone he will immediately go close to my side and cower down, his ears back, head down and tail between his legs. The opposite is true if he likes and knows the person well. He will bound over to them, tail wagging, and be very excited.

Shadow has been known to refuse to come into the house if a visitor is someone he doesn’t like. Or if indoors, he will go and hide in my bedroom until the visitor has gone.  This behaviour has helped greatly to fine tune my senses too.

The Lesson: Learn to tune into and listen to your gut instincts. They are always right.

Lesson Seven: Unconditional Love

Someone once said a dog is the only thing you can buy that gives you unconditional love. It’s so true. Shadow has total empathy and is always there with a tail wagging and wanting cuddles regardless of what time I arrive home, whoever I’ve spent time with, or however long I’ve left him.  All that matters is I’m home. A huge welcome is always there.

I’ve learned to appreciate that whatever mood I’m in, or whatever has happened to me is immaterial to another person. They don’t know what sort of day I’ve had or any problems that I’ve dealt with. I don’t know about their day either, or if they have had a tough or a great time.

The Lesson: Emotional intelligence is essential in business and in life situations. A dog can help you gain this in leaps and bounds too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these lessons as much as I have and they are at the very least thought provoking.

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