Dogs as business instructors. Who knew?


You've gotta know when to say "no."


I recently puppy-sat for my sister’s dogs. Two of them. For a week. Added to my own dog, this means I was outnumbered three to one.

Emma (the little blond) had to be watched every moment she’s outside, because she’s a poop eater (I know, too much information), and Lexi (the black one) has absolutely no concept of “enough” when it comes to petting.

My dog, Barkley, (the bigger, prettier blond ☺) is the youngest of the three and would pounce on the older dogs at a moment’s notice, wanting to play. Given their extreme lack of interest, a noisy discussion often ensued.

Having survived a week of canine insanity, I realize these beasts did a fabulous job of reinforcing some entrepreneurial lessons I’ve already learned and teaching me some new ones.

What can they do for you?

1. Be very picky about what you say “yes” to.

I was glad to puppy-sit, because it saved my sister the cost of boarding her beasts and gave her peace of mind about them while she was out of town visiting her grandchildren.

While this was a well-thought-out “yes” in the personal realm, it’s just as vital to be equally clear in the business realm. If you’re in the habit of saying “yes” to everything that comes your way – potential clients, opt-ins, the latest and greatest marketing program – chances are you lack the focus to create the business you really crave.

2. Beware of scope creep.

Or, in the case of Lexi and Emma, dog creep.

These two are used to sleeping on their human’s bed. That’s okay with me; after all, Barkley shares my bed with me.

However, the visitors would commandeer the prime spots, leaving my dog to sit on her own bed with a “What the hell?!” expression on her face.

It was not easy, but every night I rearranged Lexi and Emma so that Barkley didn’t have to make do with a crummy spot. (Yes, yes, I know: a truly crummy spot would be a patch of dirt outside, but we’re talking about my fur kid here.)

I suspect almost every entrepreneur has dealt with the human equivalent of Lexi and Emma: someone who keeps maneuvering to get more than was agreed to when you began work together.

Since some clients are poster children for the cliché “give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile”, you owe it to yourself and your business to cut them off immediately when they try to cajole you into doing more than the agreed-upon amount of work for the same amount of pay.

3. Set and enforce clear boundaries.

Scope creep is a common example of boundaries that are too porous for your own good. Firm boundaries can do a lot to save your sanity, as Lexi and Emma clearly demonstrated to me.

These beasts are extraordinarily pushy when it comes to food. They’ll beg for it at any time and in any place, but they get really insistent about their second meal of the day.


Clarity + focus + boundaries = positive outcomes.


The problem was, they like to eat around 2 p.m., Barkley eats around 6:30, and I was unwilling to juggle meal times.

So I just made it clear that dinner was at 5 p.m. for everyone and stuck with it. It wasn’t particularly comfortable for anybody, but it kept me from feeling I was on an endless loop of dog feedings.

When it comes to your business, how often do clients or vendors take advantage of you because your boundaries are flimsy? Do you bend over backwards so much that, rather than simply providing an exceptional experience, you’re actually hurting yourself? How much is this costing you in terms of time, money, and overall grief?

Think of lane markers on a highway. These boundaries actually serve as a way to keep you safe on your journey, since they let you and other drivers know where you should be at any given point in the road. Make sure your business lane markers are clearly visible – to you and to everyone else.

4. Find what works for you and stick with it – even if others disagree or disapprove.

I found the trick to enforcing the mealtime boundary was to avoid eye contact and basically ignore Lexi and Emma for the three hours between them wanting dinner and them getting it.

While my sister goes along with the dogs’ insistence on an early meal time, I was unwilling to. Even though the dogs (and maybe Barbara) didn’t particularly appreciate my decision, it was mine to make. I did what was manageable for me.

In business, I’ve found it’s easier to be swayed from a chosen course of action if you lack confidence in your decision about it. So how can you become confident enough to not let the naysayers push you around?


What are some of the best business lessons you’ve learned? Who were your teachers: friends, paid consultants, the trusty School O’ Life? If you share them below, the rest of us would be very grateful to for the Cliff Notes version of the lessons!

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One Response to Dogs as business instructors. Who knew?

  1. Pingback: Is your business going to the dogs? I hope so. | Stepping Into Big

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