“Dogs help corporate employees in India rekindle their joy in work and life”
“I am petrified of dogs,” the young girl declared, grimacing at the sight of six friendly dogs playfully wagging their tails. “I will have nothing to do with them,” she added emphatically before settling herself into a far corner watching the proceedings from a safe distance.
Junaid Merchant, director of ‘Canines Can Care’ smiled to himself and quietly allotted a gentle Cocker Spaniel pup – Max – to the girl’s group. As an experienced canine trainer and behaviour counsellor for the past twenty years, he knew how irresistible the charms of a Cocker Spaniel could be. And sure enough, within an hour, the warm, caramel eyes and stubby wagging tail had worked their magic. The girl was cautiously feeding biscuits to the happy pup. By the end of the afternoon, Max was cuddled on her lap as she tentatively stroked his fur. The rest of her group stood watching aghast as Junaid turned from the other dogs to look over at the transformation. He laughed as he went over to stroke the pup and say a quiet thank you. The world had one more dog lover – all thanks to Max.
“Dogs are special creatures,” says Sherri McArdle a seasoned leadership development expert with more than 20 years of experience in business leadership and consulting in the US, in her book – Why Dogs Wag their Tails: Lessons Leaders Can Learn about Work, Joy and Life. “They are perfect companions and great teachers… they reflect back to us so much about ourselves. If we watch them, if we listen to them, dogs can help us become better people at work and at home. Dogs can teach us new tricks.”
Today, a handful of canine experts are bringing the same principles to the corporate world to help employees rekindle their joy in work and life.
Canines Can Care, India’s leading canine training and behaviour experts for over fifteen years, is the country’s first ever organisation to conduct workshops and camps for corporate houses where the participants learn how to improve their talent and skills using the same principles as canines do. At India’s first ever canine corporate camp, held in Talegaon, employees of Blue Lotus Communications – one of India’s leading PR agencies, got to experience the joys of learning from canines. The training session, that lasted three days, stressed on creating bonds at the workplace, attaining strategic teamwork skills necessary for success in the workplace and managing anxiety – the way canines do – all through fun and games.
Whether the participants were teaching the canines to perform a ‘sit’ or a ‘down’ command or competing against the canines in a hurdles and tunnels race, they were constantly learning the finer nuances of communicating with another species. The camp forced the participants to attempt a variety of tactics and solutions to win over the dogs, and by doing so, understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and develop the ability to negotiate and provide solutions in any situation. Though many of them struggled initially, most of them found that when they did get the message across to the dogs, they found it exhilarating; and every successful task completed was met with whoops of joy from the teams. “Working with canines taught me to be patient and to never give up hope, because if you believe you can make a difference, you will achieve your goal,” said one participant.
Junaid Merchant opines that “Man was a better communicator a few thousand years ago than what he is today.Nowadays, people don’t have time to even call and wish on birthdays; they prefer to send text messages on mobile phones – we have forgotten the fine art of communication,” he rues.
Dogs, however, communicate at a more personal level and use a complex system of body posturing, tail wags, eye movement and ear carriage to get their message across. “Interacting with animals teaches one to be patient, firm and precise. If one can communicate with animals, one can easily communicate with people at large,” he adds. One participant who was amazed at the results gushed: “’Talking’ to the dogs taught me to be patient with my office team members and listen not just to their verbal communication, but also read their body language to better understand what they are trying to communicate. This skill will definitely help me have better relationships not just at the workplace, but even with my family and friends.”
Dogs have a great attitude to life; they always greet life with a wag of the tail and a smiling face. Few things in life get them down and they have a unique way of managing the stress they go through on a daily basis. The participants were put through a variety of exercises that induced competitive stress; and were consequently taughtthe many ways an animal reduces its stress and how they could imbibe some of those strategies in their day to day life. “I am amazed at how easy it can be to work when under stress,” said one participant. “Fear lies in your mind,” said another. “I learnt how to cope through tough times, how to have an open mind when dealing with peers and the best thing the dogs taught me was to never give up on life.”
The CEO of Blue Lotus Communications, Mr. N Chandramouli summarised the entire experience by stating: “I can only describe the canine training as a ‘one-of-its-kind’ experience… and recommend the training program to everyone who desires to evolve and inculcate a positive attitude towards life’s many avenues.”
The Blue Lotus Communications website maintains that: “Nothing is impossible as long as you have the right partner by your side.” After the camp, the staff of Blue Lotus realised why man’s best friend is the probably the best partner to have by your side through life.”