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What I learned about work when I adopted a puppy

Work doesn’t have to be a slog. You can choose to approach it with joy and exuberance.

What I learned about work when I adopted a puppy
[Photo: lempelziv/iStock]

I’ll be honest here: I’m a bit sleep-deprived, and I’ve been cleaning the floor more than usual. But I’m also completely enamored with our new puppy—a shih tzu named Truffle. A dark brindle, she looks a bit like a five-pound, cuddly version of Chewbacca.

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Puppies are irresistible (which is why so many of us like to look at pictures of them when we’re supposed to be doing something else.) They seem to have a never-ending supply of energy and exuberance, and they’re playful to the point of wild abandon and are purely social. All of this makes for great experiences and just a few annoyances (puppy parenting is about patience, for sure). Adopting Truffle has also totally changed the way that I view my work. Here’s how:

Work is so much better when I approach it with exuberance

Rather than judicious effort and careful management of work-life boundaries, I’ve learned that it’s better to embrace work with pure enthusiasm. We all know how great it is to work with people who love what they do. Puppies approach the world with incredible energy, and there’s no reason why we can’t do the same with our work.

It’s essential to be interested and present

One of the things that take so long when we let our puppy outside to do her business is that every little thing interests her. From butterflies to the neighbors’ voices and from leaves to the nearby revving car engine, she is present and interested. We can be like this at work as well. Be fully in the moment, and pay attention to the little things. Bring yourself more completely to every meeting, every interaction, and every project—even the mundane. Doing this will improve your satisfaction and make you better at what you do.

Accept your colleagues

Our puppy loves everyone, and her level of excitement in encountering each new person is contagious. Work should be like this, too. Greet every coworker with enthusiasm and acceptance. Rather than a cautious approach, try giving each person the gift of acceptance, and embrace what they bring to the table. Of course, it is vital to remain professional. But an emphasis on contagious collaboration can do us good at the office.

Make your voice heard

Puppies bark, of course, and even the smallest dogs can have impressive vocals (Truffle is among them). At work, it’s crucial to find our voices, speak up, and ensure that others hear your voice. Share your input. Rather than holding back for the just-right time, be vocal, and articulate your thoughts, expertise, and unique perspectives.

Being appreciative can go a long way

Be appreciative and grateful. Plenty of research has shown how powerfully positive it is to be thankful and optimistic. Apply this rule at work, and even the most mundane job will look better through some appropriately rose-colored glasses.

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Embracing play is crucial to innovation

Of course, if puppies are anything, they are playful. From tug-of-war to fetch, they will play anywhere, anytime, and with anyone. Be playful at work. Rather than a stoic approach, find the fun, and laugh as much as you can. As I’ve written before, the distance from “ha-ha” to “aha” is short. A playful approach is a natural bridge to creativity and innovation—two elements critical to success in business.

Never underestimate the power of rest and rejuvenation

A friend of mine says, “Puppies have two speeds, playing and sleeping.” In your work-life, throw yourself into your projects but also rejuvenate and rest well. Effectiveness at work as much about what you do outside of work as what you do inside of work. So, in addition to spending time with the people and activities you love outside of work, also be sure to get enough sleep to refresh and be ready for the next opportunity.

I personally found getting a puppy life-changing. It changed my perspective on work. When I chose to approach it with curiosity and exuberance, I learned that work doesn’t have to be a slog. In fact, it can be a joyous effort if you apply some puppy wisdom.


Tracy Brower, PhD, MM, MCRw, is a sociologist focused on work, workers, and workplace, working for Steelcase. She is the author of Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work: A Guide for Leaders and Organizations.

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