Dogs are funny creatures. They can be silly, annoying, loud, and downright rude sometimes. But we love them (many of us, anyways), and while we might train them, they have a lot to teach us too!

Back at the end of 2013, I was on a quest to find the dog I had been waiting 20 years for. After 12 years of begging, reasoning, and presenting arguments for getting a dog, my parents had finally relented. We got a miniature blue merle Australian Shepherd puppy who was mostly just an incredibly cute ball of fluff who could hardly stay on her feet. While I love my girl, she wasn’t quite the Velcro, active Aussie that I wanted since I was 3. (It turns out that what I really wanted was a Border Collie in Aussie form, but whatever!) Fast forward to winter of 2013: I had just gotten married, and my new husband had agreed to let me look for a dog! I like playing with puppies, but I knew I wanted to rescue an adult dog. Enter Flash:

Flash

A series of events followed that delayed adopting him, but the foster parents were incredibly kind and willing to work with me, especially since I wanted to volunteer for the rescue, and in Summer 2014, Flash came home for good! It’s now been almost two full years since he came home, and he’s taught us so much about life, and even about entrepreneurship!

As entrepreneurs, we tend to overlook the furry friends we spend our days with. That's a huge mistake. Dogs are great companions, friends, and even mentors. They can teach us 10 valuable lessons that are perfect for beginning biz people all the way to seasoned pros. These lessons will enhance your business, life, and creativity. So if you find that you need inspiration, help, or guidance, check out this great post by The Spare Room Project's Jenn Zellers!

1) Follow your passions

When I first met Flash, he spent 45 minutes running up and down the fence of two grazing fields, trying to herd the sheep that were at one end and the horses at the other end. As much as this made him look like a psycho, it’s also one of the reasons I fell in love with him. He was SO invested in his passion (herding is his favorite thing in the entire world) that I couldn’t help but get excited too!

When you are excited and passionate about something, it’s so much easier to sell others on your vision. Enthusiasm is contagious, people! I’m a geek who gets really excited about business and tech stuff like teaching Google Analytics. That’s not something most people get excited about, but when I start sharing my enthusiasm, other people start to see the vision and get excited too.

Don’t be afraid to follow your passions, even if it makes you look like a psycho! Use that passion and enthusiasm to sell others on your vision.

Don't be afraid to follow your passions, even if it makes you look like a psycho! Click To Tweet

2) We all deserve a second chance

Flash was found as a stray, but we think that he may have been a farm dog who was dumped because he was too crazy about the sheep. That’s often the case with rescue dogs: they get dumped or surrendered because they’re too X. Too driven to herd (and they don’t care if it’s sheep, bikes, or kids). Too enthusiastic about water. Too old and boring. Too hyper. Too ANYTHING that their previous owner didn’t want to take the time to train or harness or just embrace!

But here’s the thing: we all deserve a second chance. Whether it’s a dog who got traded in for a newer ‘model’ or an entrepreneur whose last great business idea flopped. Sometimes it’s not just someone else who doesn’t want to give you a second chance – sometimes YOU want to give up on yourself.

Don’t do it. And don’t let other people give up on you either. I’ve been an entrepreneur when I was three and charging my parents a quarter for the ‘privilege’ of watching my gibberish plays. (Because who hasn’t done something like that? Come on, admit it!) If I had given up after failing at acting, or the website I tried to launch while I was teaching myself coding at 14, or the many jobs that just DID NOT suit me, I would never have discovered what I really want to do.

Give yourself and others a second chance – you’ll be glad you did!

3) Look for hidden treasures

Sometimes things aren’t what they seem on the surface. Flash was an untrained maniac when I first met him, but having been working with dogs since I was tiny, I could see the hidden diamond under the coal. When he finally calmed down after his 45 minute marathon attempt at herding, I discovered a dog with a laser focus. I had a hard time teaching him new things at first, because he always wanted to be directly in front of me, staring up at me, impatiently waiting for the next command (and treat). It’s hard to teach a dog ‘down’ when they’re already sitting on you!

Flash the Australian Shepherd sitting at my feet

If you’re willing to look past first impressions, you can find those hidden treasures too. You can turn perceived weaknesses into strengths. Flash’s intense focus pays dividends when training new commands now, and if I hadn’t been able to look past the initial annoyance that some people felt with the behavior, I wouldn’t have the (sometimes frustratingly) intelligent buddy that is Flash. And the quirky tendency I have to offer to help my friends turn their talents and skills into a job? Well, they found that utterly obnoxious when we were 12, but now that we’re in our 20’s and they want to ditch their unfulfilling 9-5 jobs…

Yeah, that obnoxious tendency is now a hidden treasure that helps pay my bills!

4) Go outside

If you have a dog, you know just how much they love to go outside. My current foster dog, Bruce, is sitting outside, soaking up the sun right now!

Cutest Dog Ever!

Whether you work from home or from a cubicle, or really anywhere, it’s easy to get stuck to your chair. When you have a dog, they make no bones (hehe) about informing you that they expect to go outside on a regular basis. We had to train Bruce to ring a little jingle-bell by the back door, because he didn’t know how to tell us when he needed to go out. NOW he’s decided that ringing the bell should mean that he gets to go out just so he can run around and get into trouble!

But sometimes we need that. As spring is (FINALLY) dawning, I’m letting the dogs drag me outside more and more often. Not only is it good for all of us, I’ve noticed my productivity amping up and my procrastination slinking away. I grew up in Seattle, so I don’t have SAD (hard to develop it when it’s gray 75% of the year!), but sunshine really does help, apparently!

So, if your procrastination monster is taking hold, GO OUTSIDE. You’ll thank yourself later.

If your procrastination monster is taking hold, GO OUTSIDE. Click To Tweet

5) Find joy in the little things

Dogs are even better than kids at this, because I swear, they never get past the toddler mental stage. You know, that stage where everything elicits, “OMG, IS THIS IRL?! ORLY? I LOVE LIFE!!!” And then they spin in circles for five minutes and fall over in happy exhaustion (hopefully). Kids outgrow that stage usually. Dogs don’t.

Cute happy Australian Shepherds

My husband comes home from work at approximately the same time every weekday. He’s had this job since the end of last summer, so you’d think Flash would be used to it by now, right? Nope! Every time Lucas comes home from work, Flash hears the car coming down the block (yay for almost 20-year-old cars!) and starts revving up. By the time Lucas walks to the door, Flash is, quite often literally, spinning circles of excitement. Every. Single. Weekday. He finds joy in all of those little moments that I take for granted.

Take the time to find some joy in places where you forgot about it. It keeps life – and business – fun and enjoyable!

6) Don’t forget to eat

I don’t know about you, but if someone isn’t there to remind me, I tend to forget to eat. I get caught up in whatever project I’m working on at the moment and I just plain forget to be hungry! Flash… doesn’t have that problem. At all. He starts informing me that it’s dinnertime an hour early, even though he knows the schedule.

Have you ever tried to work while you’re hangry? (Yes, look it up!) It’s not such a good idea. So this lesson might seem like a no-brainer, but trust me – it’s one I’ve had to learn over and over again!

Don’t. Forget. To eat!

7) An old dog CAN learn new tricks!

Okay, so Flash was actually a young dog when I got him (we think about a year and a half). But working with other dogs from the rescue I got him from, I’ve found that the old saying is definitely not true. An old dog definitely can learn new tricks, and lots of them! We get dogs from various backgrounds, but most of them are starved for love, even if they don’t know it when they come to us. Given the right motivation and situation, all of them – even the 10-year-old ‘puppies’ – are excited to learn new tricks. Flash and Bruce would flip somersaults all day if I let them!

Bruce the Aussie flipping out!

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs didn’t start at 15. The SBA (Small Business Administration) even has a division specifically for people over 50 who want to start a business. Just because you’re not 15 or 50, doesn’t mean you can’t learn new tricks too, though! It wasn’t until I took some risks and tried out new things (like quitting my job!) that I learned things I didn’t even know about myself.

Just give it a try – learn new tricks!

8) Take a rest

When Flash is tired of something, he just flops. No making excuses or convincing himself that he needs to finish one more thing. He just collapses on the couch (and is then told to get off and go lay on his own doggy bed).

Sometimes we tell ourselves we just need to finish this one thing before we can stop. And then one more thing. And then another. Before we know it, it’s bedtime, and we’ve missed the opportunity to take a rest.

Now, I’m not saying we need to take naps all the time. You can rest without sleeping, after all. Sometimes you just need to step away and do something (or nothing!) else, so that you can come back with a new perspective and an invigorated mindset. Not doing anything might be the best thing you do all day!

9) Let others help you

Flash needed help finding a home. Granted, he didn’t really have a choice about letting me adopt him. (Though I know he would have told me point blank if he didn’t want to be here!) But sometimes he gets stuck, whether it be in his leash or because he stuck his cute little head somewhere it didn’t belong. When he gets stuck, he needs help!

We get stuck in so many different ways. Usually (well, hopefully) it’s not physically stuck, but so often we are mentally stuck. Much of the time, though, we are reluctant to ask for or downright refuse help.

Listen closely: That’s. Silly.

If you were stuck in quicksand, would you really want to turn down that rope that someone threw to you? I didn’t think so. So why are we so hesitant to get help when we need it in other areas? Maybe you need some help with your content strategy. Maybe you need some help figuring out how to make Google Analytics work for YOU, instead of the other way around. Whatever it is, there are so many places to ask for help! Whether it be in a Facebook group, on Twitter, or whatever other networks you use, just ASK. You’ll be glad you did.

10) Change can take time

When Flash came home, even though I’d been working with him for about six months, he was NOT perfect. He tested us, pushed his boundaries, and sometimes made us just about tear our hair out sometimes! But through patience (lots and LOTS of patience!) and training, Flash has turned into a (mostly) model citizen. Okay, sometimes. Okay, not at all where bikes or sheep are concerned, but we’re working on that!

My point is, change takes time. Some things are easier to adapt to, but everything will take at least a little time. Habits become ingrained, and they become hard to break. We become set in our ways. But we CAN change, and we should! Humans weren’t meant to be stagnate. Just remember to give yourself some grace as things change. It can be beautiful in the end!

Rescued Australian Shepherd Dogs

What have you learned from the animals in your life? We want to know!

Having grown up near Seattle, Jenn is Washingtonian to the core, and believes that trees that lose their leaves are unnatural and snow is evil. Right now, though, she calls the-middle-of-nowhere Ohio home, having stayed after college. With a vastly varied background in creativity – from hosting a radio show to jewelry design to filmmaking – becoming the Strategic Manager and Wearer-of-Many-Hats for The Spare Room Project was meant to be! Right now, she’s working on a Google Analytics course for bloggers and entrepreneurs, and she’d love to have you join her! You can connect with Jenn on Pinterest and Twitter.

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