Build Your Pack by Networking Like a Dog

Bella The Boxer's PackMy humans like to think that they are alpha networkers. They are wrong, of course.

That distinction clearly belongs to me. In fact, every day I teach them something new about the value of “assembling one’s pack,” i.e., the network of colleagues, coaches, mentors and friends that are essential to building a successful business and creating a happy life. (I don’t know who coined the expression “every man for himself,” but boy were they wrong!)

You might wonder about taking business advice from a dog. But dogs in the workplace are hardly a novelty anymore. One in five companies across the U.S. now allows canines, including many large corporations. Yet modern working dogs aren’t confided to corporate settings. Millions of Americans enjoy the personal and financial freedom of working as network marketers or in home-based businesses, and many of them have a four-legged friend lying at their feet.

What can people learn from dogs about becoming better networkers?

Well, according to some surveys, a fraction (10-20%) of people enjoy face-to-face networking. The rest avoid it or hate it altogether. Language is part of the problem. People think of “networking” as a specific activity where they’re expected to dole out literature and ask for something in return. That would be like me showing up at a new dog day care facility, doing a cursory sniff-around and then asking the other dogs to give up their tennis balls. Even if I did have my own fancy business cards to hand out, it would be awkward and unproductive.

The better way—the dogpreneur way—is to think of “connecting.” Whereas “networking” is an activity with a beginning and an end, “connecting” is a way of life. Dogs make friends to make friends, not to drum up business or push their own agenda.

Make Others Feel Good

It doesn’t matter whether my humans have been gone for one minute or one hour, as soon as they walk in the door I greet them with a series of big, sloppy kisses. Granted, this would be awkward for most people. But if you’re nervous about interacting with strangers, why not try giving everyone a big, friendly smile and a warm “hello”? You’ll put everyone at ease, including yourself.

Sniff Out a Connection

Humans waste too much time chitchatting about trivial stuff like the weather or American Idol (you think your four-legged friends aren’t listening, but we are). In contrast, networking is asking thoughtful questions and making meaningful connections. If you are stuck for words, talk about your dog, your goldfish or—heaven forbid!—your cat. After you’ve made a genuine connection, it’s easy to transition to other topics.

Dig Out What’s Different

The key to connecting like a dog is to always be curious. Never pass up an opportunity to meet someone new just because they don’t walk, talk or look like you. (Although I don’t recommend that you follow my lead in trying to connect with a skunk!) The point is, dogs know that mutually beneficial partnerships come in all shapes and sizes. We have no problem looking past (or searching out) differences that most humans would think were too big to ignore.

Perk Up Your Ears

In the dog world, names are irrelevant. Rover, Fido, Spot—it doesn’t matter. Yet Dale Carnegie said that the sweetest sound in the world is the sound of a person’s own name, which explains why many people worry less about meeting others than simply forgetting their name. So, whether your ears point like a Doberman pinscher’s or flop like a basset hound’s, perk them up and listen carefully when people introduce themselves. As busy as you are, take a few seconds to stop and focus. People appreciate it when you are interested in them and go out of their way to remember them by name.

Connecting with people on a genuine level is the key to “building your pack” and succeeding in business and in life.