Can Leaders Learn from a Dog?

By | January 16, 2015

[January 16, 2015] A family member of mine owns a dachshund-beagle mix, a smart and well behaved dog. I like the dog because he is friendly and easy to care for. He teaches the family more than we thought possible. But can leaders learn from a dog? Can they learn anything significant? Those may appear to be silly questions yet they deserve a serious answer.

It struck me that the answer to these questions is yes, a leader can learn from a dog. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Animals have certain patterns of behavior that they share with people. Humans, dogs, and other animals have similar instincts and drives. I’ve written before how important it is for leaders to understand and use human psychology. For example, knowing what motivates people helps the leader provide a more tailored reward for good behavior … the same applies to dogs.

In a good article on reasons why a dog is your best friend, an author lays out 11 reasons.1 Note the similar desirable traits in humans on loyalty, positive attitude, and respect (see the 11 dog reasons below in the notes section). These explanations are to be expected of the dog and owner, as well as the leader and those who follow. Note the strong association with loyalty. This is one of the stronger characteristics that senior leaders also display.

Dogs are cute and lovable but they are also protective. Not unlike those loyal to us leaders, those who follow us can also be protective. This is helpful but the leader should be aware of the downside. Too much protection can insulate us from the reality of those things we should be aware; a common criticism of senior leaders.

I recommend owning a dog. It requires the owner to be responsible, treat the dog well, and care for the dog’s emotional and physical health. In return, you will get it many times over. The same can be said for people. If you show loyalty and kindness to them, take care of their needs, and show them gratitude, they will return it in spades.

Leaders can learn from a dog. They can learn from the many relevant experiences of humans. Yes, our dog can treat us to some very valuable lessons.

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  1. Dogs are Therapeutic
  2. Dogs emulate emotions
  3. Dogs are fun
  4. They are the most efficient vacuums [food on the floor]
  5. Dogs are always happy to see you
  6. Dogs can help you stay healthy
  7. They are loyal
  8. They are natural protectors
  9. Dogs don’t judge
  10. Dogs don’t hold grudges
  11. Dogs don’t talk back


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.