What Dogs Can Teach Us About Working More Effectively

You might think that bringing your pet to work would be a distraction, but some entrepreneurs have found it is just what they needed to revitalize their business.

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By Lisa Evans

Ellen and Patrick Galvin
Ellen and Patrick Galvin learned a different approach to work<br /> from their dog Bella, pictured here.

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Today is International Take Your Dog to Work Day, and while many business owners might consider pets in the office a distraction, some entrepreneurs have found there is a lot to learn from our canine friends.

Ellen and Patrick Galvin, owners of Portland, Ore.-based brand strategy firm the Galvanizing Group regularly bring their eight-year old Boxer named Bella into work with them. Ellen says the diversions caused by their dog's presence in the office made them work smarter.

Bella's antics taught the Galvins so much about being good entrepreneurs, they turned the lessons into a book Secrets of a Working Dog (Joseph Rudolph Publishers, 2011).

Here are four lessons that entrepreneurs can learn from dogs.

1. Keep your eyes on the ball.
Like many dogs, Bella has a favorite red ball. "When she plays with it, she gives it her full attention, her full energy and talent. I realized that I have to do that in my own work," says Ellen. To sharpen their focus, the Galvins began eliminating distractions such as email and social media while working on a specific task and breaking work down into manageable chunks, completing each one before taking a break or moving onto the next.

2. Play should be a part of every day.
Integrating play into the workday is a great way to give your brain a rest and tap into your creative side. Playing like a dog means taking frequent breaks throughout each workday.
Having Bella at the office means the Galvin's are forced to get up and play once an hour. "She has a basket of toys in the office and she'll go in there and pick up a toy and drop it at my feet. It's just a reminder to stand up and take a break from looking at the computer," says Ellen.

You don't have to have a dog in your office to play like one. Go for a walk, do some desk stretches or listen to music in between tasks. Ellen says you'll return to your desk recharged and with a clearer mind.

Related: The Power of Goofing Off at Work

3. Show appreciation.
Dogs are naturals at showing their appreciation – from wagging tails to affectionate nuzzles. Bella's gestures of appreciation made everyone in the office feel so good, that it inspired them to extend the feeling to their clients. "We send out handwritten thank you cards when someone gives us a referral," says Ellen, who believes that the show of thanks has helped her company stand out from the crowd.

4. Live in the present.
How often do you think about what you should have done differently, or speculate where you want your business to be in the future? The Galvins' noticed that Bella, on the other hand, was permanently rooted in the present, taking every moment of the day for what it is rather than what it could be or what it should have been.

"We spend a lot of our time thinking about what we need to do to get our business from here to there but we forget to focus on the present, what needs to be done today," says Ellen, who now prepares for each day by making a list of what needs to be accomplished and prioritizing daily tasks -- including, of course, a few walks with Bella.

Related: Surprising Ways to Create an Inspiring Workspace

Lisa Evans

Lisa Evans is a health and lifestyle freelance journalist from Toronto.

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