What my dogs taught me about being an entrepreneur.

A weekend ago, I took some extra time to spend with my dogs, enjoying a little hiking, dog agility practice, fetching, learning a few new tricks and just spending time in the sun, listening to and watching the nature around us here on our Mountain.

As I sat there watching YoYo (Johann) and Gracie take in the nice weather, I was struck by how much they have taught me and reminded me about what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Work hard, play hard and force yourself to take a break - for you!

Like many dogs Johann and Gracie are always ready to take on what's before them, whether it be a little stick fetching, dog agility, an adventure hike, or learning a new trick.

Both of them are herding breeds and are hard wired with a strong work ethic. With that type of work ethic and focus there are times when they won't stop until I tell them it's time.

All that work can really tax the brain. When they've been working hard on a new trick or new agility move, I'll give them a break and what do they do? Zoom around the yard working off the brain stress with physical activity.

Watching them, I've learned a lot about when to work hard, when to play hard, when to exercise, and to make myself take a break - just for me.

Listening can take you further than talking.

Johann and Gracie are very active listeners. With Johann, however, there comes a time when listening turns to talking, or barking, barking and barking...he's a sheltie, they do that sometimes.

Gracie on the other hand talks very little. When she does talk (bark), you know it's about something very, very important - most probably something relating to a squirrel.

Gracie is on to something. Taking the time to really listen can provide you with a lot more information; much more information than talking.

Communications and understanding can make it or break it.

Gracie and Johann learn very differently. I found this out early when I started teaching them tricks and dog agility.

Johann wants to know exactly what he's supposed to do very quickly or else he gets frustrated and starts barking. I can see him telling me when teaching him a new trick...'just tell me what you want and I'll do it!'.

Gracie on the other hand likes to think about and understand what she's supposed to do before doing it.

Many in the dog training world would understand when I say that Johann can't stand shaping, but Gracie loves it. Shaping is a training technique that allows the dog to learn individual steps as they progress to an end result, providing them with feedback through the steps and the process.

How I communicate with each individual dog varies greatly. And their process for understanding what I would like them to do over the long term is very different as well.

Learning this helps me better understand how to communicate with a wide variety of individuals I work with each and every day. Communicating the way prospects, customers, vendors and more, like to communicate can really improve the understanding of what information you are sharing, and can make or break your relationships and your success.

Wake up every day, ready to take on the World.

This one is really a no-brainer for a dog, but sometimes can be challenging for human beings.

I can't help but be enthusiastic every morning as Johann starts running around the cabin, looking forward to that first breath of fresh air in the morning, along with his enthusiasm for his breakfast.

With every molecule of his being, he is ready every morning to take on the World. It's infectious and I can't help but be right there beside him in his enthusiasm

Overcoming obstacles is just part of getting to the goal.

I could write a book on obstacles. When you are an entrepreneur there are no shortages of them.

Teaching Johann and Gracie how to run dog agility has opened my eyes and given me a new perspective about obstacles. Dog agility courses are full of them - dog walks, a frames, teeters, jumps, tunnels - some of them are Johann's favorites, some are Gracie's. But one thing is certain, you have to go through all of them to get to your end goal.

When Johann started agility the jumps were his favorite obstacle. But the a frame was a bit of a challenge for us.

Many dog agility trainers suggest that dogs stop at the end of the a frame to ensure that they touch the required 'contact zone' at the end of the frame. Every time I tried to get him to stop, his little Sheltie bum would keep it's momentum and he'd end up flipping his bum over his head. I thought a lot about how to handle this and one day decided to allow him to run through the frame and contact zone and not make him stop to see what would happened. He was amazing...ran right over the a frame and ran right through the required contact zone and on to the next jump, quickly and naturally.

I allowed him to handle the obstacle the best way he saw fit and it worked! Now the a frame is his favorite obstacle on the agility course and he still gets ooh and ahhhs as he runs through it quickly and accurately.

What that taught me is that everyone works through their challenges differently. And it also taught me that there are sometimes unusual and unique ways to work through whatever obstacle that is before you, you just have to find what works best for you.

Celebrate your wins, learn from your mistakes and move on.

Johann and Gracie are dogs and one of the best traits of a dog is that they live in the moment. When we have a win in agility, they know they did a good job and we celebrate! When we make a mistake or two on the course (most always because I made an error) Johann and Gracie really don't really know they made a mistake and are very happy to move on.

What this has taught me is that there isn't a need to over analyze your mistakes or missteps, review them, take note of how to improve the next time, and then move on! Life is much too short.

See opportunity where others may not.

Opportunity - Johann and Gracie see it everywhere; an opportunity to chase a squirrel, an opportunity to sniff where another animal has left their mark, an opportunity to grab some cheese that I may have dropped on the floor, just to name a few. And if they don't see opportunity at that given moment, they'll go off seeking it elsewhere.

Being an entrepreneur means that you must constantly watch for opportunity, understand if it is or isn't an opportunity; and if it is, act on it quickly.

Seek information when you're in over your head.

A very nice trait of both Johann and Gracie is that when they are in over their head or find something that's foreign to them, they immediately look to me for information, guidance and reassurance.

They dip their toes before jumping into the deep end, they sniff a snake and look at me before trying to paw at it - thank goodness - if they don't know where to go next on the agility course and I'm late in providing them with information, they will look to me for direction.

They aren't ones to dive in and ask questions later. They take a lot of risks, but are sure to understand what they are getting into before proceeding.

If you are in over your head with any aspect of running your business - whether it be accounting, marketing, sales, or service - seek out an expert in your field to help you with that aspect that you don't have the knowledge and experience that you need to be successful.

Take risks, but understand where you're headed.

Risk taking. It's risky, but it doesn't have to be. I often watch Gracie as she encounters something that's very foreign to her, something to her that may be a risk, but she isn't sure.

I'll never forget the first time she saw a turtle. She wanted to get close and investigate so badly, but she took her time to investigate, smell (from a distance), bob her head, trying to figure out if the frog was safe or was going to be a danger. Turns out that while she was investigating the turtle retracted it's little head and feet and was just a shell of a turtle. That's when Gracie moved in to investigate further..

Risks are risks, but with the proper investigation and knowledge you can take them with much more confidence.

Incentives can and will improve performance.

When I was training Gracie how to do her weave poles in agility, she wasn't performing them quiet as well as I thought she was able; she was a little slow. So what did I do? I put treats out about four feet from the end of the weave poles and watched with my mouth open as she sped through the weaves on to get that treat. Now her weave pole performance is one to be envied time and time again.

This is one of the biggest lessons I've learned and one I pass on to my clients on a regular basis. Incentives can and will improve performance. Set goals and treat yourself when you reach them and look at incentives for customers and prospects too.

Persistence pays off. 

Johann is my persistent one. Despite all of the challenges, obstacles, injuries, age and more; he still won't give up doing his favorite thing in the world - dog agility.

He may have to run slower some days, but on the days when he's feeling really good, he is a force to be reckoned with, winning and beating some of the top dogs in the world.

That's what I've learned from my dogs - never give up on what you want and need, be persistent and what you need will come to you.

Life, and work, should be fun!

Johann and Gracie are always ready to have fun. Many times throughout the day I get up from my computer and take a little break; and they are right there ready to participate in whatever I plan to do next.

They have an enthusiasm for life that no matter what is going on at any given moment spills over into mine, bringing me back to what's important; having fun with whatever you do.

When I take their lead it always makes the day more fun, more interesting and much more productive.

When you're out there on your own, it's good to have a pal that supports you.

Johann and Gracie and I are a great pack of three. We go everywhere together...we work together, we hike together, we compete and train in agility together. Besides having these two amazing herding dogs by my side, I also have and have had over the years a great group of people who have supported and mentored me over the years. Their help and assistance is, has been and will always be, invaluable.

Whether canine or human; good friends and mentors are very hard to come by. So when you find them, nurture them, care for them, develop them, and appreciate them!


  1. Nice blog! We should all strive for the direction, enthusiasm and excitement our dogs have about everyday and dog agility!

  2. Dogs can really inspire people. And in many different ways, even in business. Thank you for a well-written post.



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