How to make your pant leg off limits to your dog and your employees
Sometimes life throws you a bone. In my case, it came in the guise of a business book, “Dog Training for Managers.” The book is a serious look at how the same techniques for training dogs can be used for training employees.
This, of course, conjured up all sorts of images for me. I pictured managers swatting employees on the nose with rolled-up newspapers for minor infractions or grabbing them by the scruff of their necks and pushing their noses into wet spots on the carpet after they had an accident (like spilling coffee) and then tossing them outside.
I imagined getting my yearly review from a boss who delivered it in a high-pitched, cloying voice, repeating, “Who was a good girl this year? You were. Yes, you were.” Tummy rub nonnegotiable.
Most of us desk jockeys expect to sit at a desk all day, but what if you have a standing desk and your boss kept yelling at you to SIT? On the other hand, going for a walk two or three times a day would be rather pleasant.
Think of the expense of building human-sized cages (“crates”) as time-out areas, or safe places to keep employees out of trouble when the boss has to be gone. A downside would be the lack of productivity while crated.
But, of course, that’s not what the author was talking about because that’s not good pet or employee training. He is conversing on a much higher plane: comparing a student or new employee to the workforce as seeking “enlightenment,” while dogs seek safety, comfort or in my experience, treats.
Not all dog behavior can be traced back to its manager’s skill set. For instance, I have worked with lots of good employees, but have not been so lucky in the pet department. At home, I’ve supervised biters, escape artists and lazy bums. So when the author suggests we can match up people with their pets by the way they both act, I took offense. Judge me by the people I supervise, judge me by my children, but do not compare the way I act with my canine companions. Or I’ll bite your head off.
But the book did have some valuable advice, such as using the proper terms. “Manager” can be used for both pets and employees, but as history has proven, a wise person will refrain from using the title “owner” when talking about his or her people.
Unlike me, real pet professionals weigh in
To see if I was on the right track, I contacted Heidi Ganahl, founder of Camp Bow Wow in Colorado. While she could see a lot of commonalities in training both species—consistency, towing the line, setting boundaries—she said with pets, the handlers are actually training themselves, not their charges.
When I asked her if her employees ever complained that she treated the dogs better than she treats them, she laughed. “My employees don’t complain, but my husband does,” she said. The couple just adopted a white lab named Henry and as we all know puppies trump husbands, at least initially.
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Chris Rowland, CEO of Pet Supplies Plus, also sees the similarities between dogs and employees. “With team members, explaining the ‘why’ behind what you want them to do and why it’s important to them and the organization is a great way to gain commitment versus force compliance,” he said. That’s true, but for dogs, the “why” is more along the lines of “why are you taking so long to give me my treat?”
Team members at Pet Supplies enjoy a Peternity Stay, where they are encouraged to bring new pets to the office every day for the first couple months “to help them acclimate to their new family member and get through that challenging house-breaking phase.” That is pretty awesome. I should have asked if the team member’s dog can bring its litter to work, but I think I know the answer. The dogs are not actually employed by Pet Supplies, are they? It would be like me asking if I could bring my child’s child to work until he’s potty trained, which took his mother 2+ long years.
But what I’m really looking forward to is the employee equivalent of all those great dog-shaming pictures. I could spend hours searching the web for new ones and rereading the ones I’ve already seen. Usually I feel guilty about wasting company time, but thanks to this column, it’s now a job duty. See how easy I am to train?