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Paws, Paraphase and Pose Questions...

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

I have had three dogs in my life. One I am pretty sure was part wolf (but looked like a Holstein cow), one was a rescue from a Caribbean Island (and was a funny-looking mutt…think Lab body with Dachshund legs), and my current fur-baby is a foster fail (Aussie Shepherd with Boarder Collie – she never sits still).

Dog behaviour is endlessly fascinating. While watching a BBC World clip on how dogs play, I was struck by the elegant simplicity with which all canines engage in play. There is a set of intrinsic basic principles adhered to by all members of the canine family: from wolves to coyotes to the domestic dog. These principles of communication in play are the root of why rough and tumble play rarely escalates into conflict.

Guiding Principles for Dogs:

  1. Get attention and ask permission: The play bow. Two dogs face each other and almost synchronously they bow to each other. This is the invitation and the acknowledgement and the “tuning in” to each other to commence play.

  2. Self-Check: Rough and tumble play would not last long if dogs bit with full force. Dogs will self-check their behaviour to make sure they do not hurt their play partner.

  3. Admit you are wrong: Sometimes one dog will get carried away. The whine of the other dog is the signal that things went too far. The offending dog will back off, offer a play bow and re-engagement occurs – with permission.

  4. Be honest: If you invite another dog to play, don’t be a jerk and do something else – like fight, dominate or try to mate. Do what you say you are going to do, or risk being ostracized by others in the play group.

Dogs use basic principles to guide interactions while working hard at play. Humans could learn a thing or two from this approach. How might similar principles guide us in our professional relationships? Consider:

  1. Tune in to the other person. Note their non-verbal messages and attune to their signals. Get in rapport!

  2. Lead yourself. Consider how your behaviours impact others.

  3. Admit when you are wrong. That is all.

  4. Behave congruently with what you say.

I spoke to Carolyn McKanders this week, and she highlighted how principles are the foundation to navigating conflict in ways that strengthen both relationships and communities. Her principles are a lighthouse and guide her safely through the complex waters of relationships and conflict. She will be sharing her thoughts on principles as a personal guide in conflict at the Campfire Chat on February 24th.

I will leave you with a take-away question: How might your principles serve you well as you navigate your relationships?

(Thanks to John Clarke for the Paws pun! You can always count on him!)

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