by Kim Boatman

Your dog may look a bit funny in a suit, but it can surprisingly teach you about business management, according to professionals who have learned to handle workplace situations thanks to their own dogs.

A Dog's Approach to Things

When Ellen Galvin and her husband adopted their boxer, Bella, there was no question they'd bring her to work each day in their home-based office. What they couldn't know was how she'd turn their work world topsy-turvy. "We found ourselves really disrupted and discombobulated," says Galvin, who is the co-author -- along with her husband, Patrick -- of the book Secrets of a Working Dog: Unleash Your Potential and Create Success. "We were so used to sitting at our computers eight to 10 hours a day. I couldn't believe how much this little puppy wreaked havoc on our work life."

When the Galvins began noticing Bella's approach to things, their work actually improved. They try to remember these lessons:

Never take your eyes off the ball.

"Bella's obsessed with her little red rubber ball," says Galvin. "She's so focused and intense. When you're doing a task, just finish that task. Close the Internet browser. Get off Facebook."

Never let go of the rope.

"Bella engages in tug-of-war with her rope toy, and she just never lets go," notes Galvin. Be persistent.

Sit. Stay. Listen.

"We're always trying to interrupt and interject," says Galvin. "We could all benefit from perking up our ears and being better listeners."

The Galvins decided to share what they've learned through Bella the Boxer's own blog, which led to the book. A portion of the proceeds from book sales will go to boxer rescue groups, she says.

Channel Your Inner Puppy

Gilbert Melott's American bulldog, Chap, inspires some of the business practices at Dog-Ear Labs, the management consulting research group Melott founded. Chap is still a curious pup, and the company should bring the same open approach to research, says Melott.

The business should also take a long view in developing future work, just as Chap notices a rabbit running out of bushes in the distance. And when Chap is tired, the puppy takes a snooze. It's easy for businesspeople to dismiss the need to stay healthy in body and mind, says Melott.

Chasing Squirrels Matters Too

Mark Holtzman, a professional photographer in Sherman Oaks, Calif., says his dog Birdie has taught him the importance of taking a break. "She will come over and bug me every hour or so until I go walk outside with her," says Holtzman. "We all know that there is nothing more important than chasing a squirrel up a tree. Every now and then, do something fun and relaxing to take your mind off work, like cross-training."

Train Others to Do Your Bidding

"In my line of work, I have to work at making clients buy or sell their homes with me," says Jennifer Chiongbian, a Manhattan real estate broker. "My dog has taught me to ‘train' others to do what you want them to do, by gentle perseverance. She has successfully turned several doormen on her walking route into her personal trick-or-treat stations for both the day and evening shifts. She exhibits no hesitation, no overthinking and no overanalyzing. Her goal is clear: Have as many people feed her on her walking route as possible and indoctrinate the newbies."

Pay Attention to Your Dog

We're often too busy to notice how dogs manage their lives, and we're missing out on a valuable opportunity. Says Galvin: "We don't have to make dogs human, but what we can do is look at the way they approach life and relationships and learn from them."

Kim Boatman is a journalist based in Northern California whose work has appeared in such publications as the Miami Herald, Detroit Free Press and San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifetime lover of animals.

Available at

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