Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dog Skills in Business

With dogs, what you see is what you get. Yes, dogs will try to get by with things (I'm thinking of the time we caught Baxter licking the cheese ball at Christmas when he thought nobody was looking...). But the refreshing thing about dogs is they never misrepresent themselves, their intentions or their expectations of you.

Dogs are earnest. Dogs tell it like it is. You always know when a dog wants something. They're remarkably good at telegraphing their desires to us. And any inability on our part to figure out what the dog wants is mostly a matter of our own language deficiencies. Remarkably, dogs seem to be pretty darned good at knowing what people want, and I think their ability to read us is far superior than our ability to read them. Perhaps we humans have just become so entrenched in language we've lost our ability to pick up the little signals that dogs have no trouble sensing.

My dogs know immediately when they see someone they don't trust. And it's not necessarily the same people I would steer clear of. It's really quite amazing. We can be walking down the street and pass a kinda crusty, scary looking guy and the dogs just wag their tails, maybe even look up cheerfully at him and walk up for a pat on the head. A block later we pass a clean cut guy with a nice suit and an expensive haircut and the dogs act like they've just met a serial killer. Maybe they're just better at sensing that predatory "je ne sais quoi" that makes a fellow one of those guys you see in a mug shot on the news with a neighbor saying "he seemed like such a nice, clean cut guy."

Of course, I haven't ruled out that maybe the dogs just didn't like the guy's designer cologne. But in any case, the dogs' perceptions and intentions are clear. We don't like this guy, let's get out of here fast.
I remember one time when I was a teenager, our little Cairn Terrier, Katie, saw a man coming up the driveway. She always stood at the screen door to check out who was coming and she usually barked to annouce the impending arrival. This time it was different. She started growling and snarling and making that frothy "I'm going to rip your throat out" sound you hear attack dogs make in films.

My dad came to the door. Turned out the guy was a convicted rapist who had just been let out of jail. But he wasn't out to get us. He was coming to see my dad, who was a sheriff at the time, on a non-threatening matter. That didn't stop Katie. She knew something was up with that guy at a deeper level.

Business is often described as a "dog eat dog world." But perhaps the business world would be better if we all were a bit more like dogs: clear about our intentions and completely without subtext. If a dog wants to rip your throat out, it's pretty obvious. He doesn't do it with a smile and a wagging tail.

Most of the business people I work with aren't quite that predatory. But I do occasionally see a glimpse of the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing (my apologies to wolves). And, like Baxter and Kirby, I think my best plan of action is to give them a wide berth.


KM said...

I like your apology to the wolves.

ScruffyDog (Jennifer Allen Newton) said...