12 Most Intriguing Success, Business, and Life Strategies I’ve Learned From Dogs

12 Most Intriguing Success, Business, and Life Strategies I’ve Learned From Dogs

“The dog has seldom been successful in pulling man up to its level of sagacity, but man has frequently dragged a dog down to his.” – James Thurber

Whether it began 15,000 years ago when dogs scavenged for refuse at campsites of Paleolithic man, at some point in this long relationship with humans, dogs decided that being near us was an advantage. Clearly, most of us felt the same way.

What is rather amusing, though, is that we spend a great deal of time and money training our dogs when I suspect we could learn far more from our dogs than they could ever learn from us.

Dogs have so many elegant solutions and strategies for getting what they want; they navigate the hazards in life with aplomb. I call it dog wisdom.

Maybe it’s time we adopt a few of their tactics because when it comes to managing obstacles and taking advantage of opportunities, dogs are the masters.

1. When you want something, be adorable

Many of us have a hard time asking for what we want. Either we demand things, whine until we get what we want, or sulk, hoping that someone will see what we want and give it to us.

Dogs get right to the point. “Can I have a cookie?” The dog asks this with head cocked, ears alert, and sweet brown eyes staring lovingly at us. Who could resist that appeal?

I’m not suggesting that people should act all “adorable” when they’re asking for a raise, but asking for what you want in a friendly, positive, assertive way will surely get better results than demanding, whining, or embarking on a stiff recitation of why you deserve a raise, and what a valuable asset you are.

Dogs are adorable because it’s been a successful strategy for them over time. They have confidence that they are very likely to get what they ask for. It can work for us humans, too.

Ask for the best as if it was your destiny.

2. Don’t take no for an answer

“No! You can’t get up on the bed,” we say. Some dogs might give up for a few minutes, and then try again, sweetly, sneakily. Other dogs will just jump on the bed, curl up and feign sleep—or simply wait until you leave the house and then get on the bed.

In this battle between dogs and humans and beds, dogs usually win.

People often give up trying to get the things that they want. It takes a lot of effort to keep pursuing a goal, but whether it’s getting a new job or closing a sale, persistence wins.

Want it? Dog it.

3. Take advantage of every opportunity

Whether it’s a morsel of food that’s just fallen to the floor, a pie cooling on an oven rack, or a dog passing by the fence, dogs jump on opportunities—fast. They slurp up the fallen food, take a bite of the pie, and bark madly at the passing dog—what fun!

Many of us are slow on the uptake. Oh, the job I want opened up…gee, maybe they’ll think of me? Oh, look at that cute guy. Maybe he’ll ask me out?

Yikes. Be pushy. Keep alert for opportunities in the workplace and in life.

Go get it!

4. When you’re happy, show it

Dogs don’t withhold emotions. When they’re happy tails wag, there’s leaping, circling, and jumping for joy.

When was the last time you or anyone you know did that? If things are going well, put a smile on your face, maybe even jump in the air and click your heels. Before you know it, everyone around you will have a smile on their face. Happiness spreads.

Share the joy.

5. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

When you feed dogs and show them affection, they simply adore you—and for good reason. Dogs lick our hands, sidle up to us, and demonstrate their gratefulness.

People, however, aren’t quite as rational. Oftentimes, it’s the ones closest to us—mentors, friends, and loved ones—who become the target for our anger and frustration when we’re upset.

It’s never okay to lash out at the ones who love you.

Be grateful.

6. Avoid danger

If a dog is aware that something—or someone—is a threat to his wellbeing, he’ll take off into the distance.

Humans, however, specialize in tempting fate and placing ourselves in risky situations. From racing motorcycles to dating bad boys (and bad girls), we love our danger. But following the example of dog behavior might keep us out of emotional and physical trouble. Sometimes, it’s perfectly appropriate to run away.

Keep sneakers handy.

7. Take more naps

I think dogs are in such a good mood all the time because they’re never sleep deprived. They nap often, and deeply.

Getting up too early and going to bed too late makes us grouchy, and sleep deprivation leads to poor judgment. Taking the time to rest is crucial in our work lives, and in our personal lives.

Shut up and go to sleep.

8. Hope for the best

Is it time for dinner? Is that you at the door? Are we going for a walk? Yay! Dogs expect great things to happen, and they are just so darned enthusiastic about everything.

We, on the other hand, often get lost in our expectations, and are crushed by our disappointments. If we could take a tip from our dog friends, perhaps we might simply cultivate a hopeful attitude despite the results of our efforts. It can’t hurt.

Just believe.

9. Protect your territory

Dogs take property boundaries and relationships very seriously. If a stranger walks up to the door, most dogs will bark threateningly. Hey! This is my house, and these are my people! Get lost!

Whether it’s work product or a relationship, it’s important to protect what you’ve created, and to guard those you love. There’s nothing wrong with defending yourself—or your territory. If you don’t, someone could walk right in and steal everything you’ve worked so hard for.

Cultivate a growl. Bite when necessary.

10. Beware of strangers

I know our mothers taught us this, but dogs understand the heart of the matter. If a strange dog wanders into another dog’s pack, that dog will sniff as long as it takes to get all the available information about the stranger. Who are you? Where have you been? Who’s your family? Are you balanced? Are you healthy? What do you want? When all those questions have been asked and answered—by a dog’s nose—only then will a dog begin to develop some trust.

We let strangers into our lives with hardly a thought. Get to know the new people in your life, especially online. Ask questions. Do research. Observe their behavior. Make some conclusions.

Develop a nose.

11. Trust your instincts

Dogs can sense earthquakes, danger, and illness; because they pay attention to what’s being communicated via sound, smell, and sight.

I’ve spent most of my life overriding my instincts instead of listening to them. Now, when the hair stands up on the back of my neck, I run in the other direction. It’s not safe to ignore what your gut is telling you. If you do, there will be consequences.

Listen to yourself.

12. Sleep with one another

Dogs don’t just sleep next to one another, they’re all over each other (and us) at every opportunity. Not only does the body heat feel good, it’s a dog’s way of providing some kind of security by sleeping in a pack, and it increases good feelings and promotes bonding. The only dogs I know who avoid touch are traumatized dogs. Healthy dogs just crave body contact.

I know we get mad at one another, and sometimes we just want to be alone and sleep on the couch, but truly, life’s short. Take advantage of the opportunities to connect; give hugs, cuddle more, sleep with your kids once in awhile, and hold your special someone tight. This wonderful life we’re all sharing doesn’t last forever.

Love the ones you’re with.

Carol Quinn


Carol Quinn is the author of Follow My Lead: What Training My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Love, and Happiness (Seal Press, 2011). Carol is a strategic planner/advisor through her company ProjectQuinn, and is an adjunct faculty member at USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism.

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@ProjectQuinn Love your post..As for #12, I sleep w/my dogs sandwiched between me..they must believe I'm part of their pack. My facebook quote in my info page reads: "My goal in life is to become as wonderful as my dog thinks I am."


Nice one, Carol. I especially like that dogs are not sleep deprived. Bet they do not have social media fatigue either ;) And they are definitely the eternal optimists!

PegFitzpatrick moderator

Welcome to 12 Most!
I love this post and would be so happy to have the stress free life of my dog. Oliver has definitely got the game down - bring Kong for treat when Mommy is done with the dishes - very smart! They observe us in our lives and some how manage to get what they need without being stressed.
Such great wisdom in this post Carol - I love it.



I think it's amazing how much we can learn from animals - it's such a treasure trove of knowledge, but because they are cats and dogs we tend to pass up the lessons we can learn.

You do a great job of really driving home a lot of these lessons in ways that I think will resonate with people in new ways.

So happy to have you here in 12-most land :)

Latest blog post: Are you co-signing on crap?


We are such a dog family and I love, love, love this post.


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