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What my reactive dog has taught me about business.

Updated: May 9

I have the great fortune of having two adorable dogs who have larger than life personalities. Less fortunately, my youngest dog Winnifred is highly reactive. She is 2.5 years old, has been kicked out of doggy daycare twice and has seen 4 different trainers who all have met her with high hopes only to end our training saying she is “unique and challenging”. We love her to pieces and as we tell everyone who asks how things are going, it’s all about lifelong learning.

However, I’ve learned a lot of lessons by having a dog who would literally scream at dogs walking multiple blocks away. Some of them are more situational, like how a line of cars is a great place to hide behind if you can’t avoid an oncoming dog. But a lot of them are incredibly relevant to running a business.

For instance, progress happens slowly and overtime. It’s so easy for it to seem like other people’s success has appeared over night. And in some cases I’m sure that did happen. But for most, that’s not the case. It’s a culmination of the daily activities and practices that individually don’t seem like a lot, but when you look back a year from now, it made all of the difference.

I rarely notice how Winnifred is changing from walk to walk. But when I think about it, her blood curdling screams at dogs is now the exception, not the norm. Progress.

Finding the right tools is so important. With Winnie, we’ve tried EVERYTHING. A regular collar, a no-pull harness, an e-collar, a prong collar, a slip lead, a head harness, if someone recommended it, we tried it. And ultimately, we found that she is a two-tool kinda gal: a prong collar with a no-pull harness for reinforcement. This has been a game-changer.

The same goes with business. Everyone is going to have an opinion on which tools and processes are best and why. The only way to figure out what is going to work for you is to try some out and see if it works. And there are going to be tools out there that people swear by or that you’ve used in the past that worked but now they only seem to make things worse. That’s okay. It’s not for you.

And with that, have a lot of tools in your tool belt because what worked last week might not work this week. This was one of the hardest things to learn with Winnie. The moment I thought I had things figured out, I knew just how to distract her or get her to pass a dog, was the moment the technique stopped working. It was incredibly frustrating and disheartening. But what I eventually learned is that while it may not be working today, it might work tomorrow. I need to be able to read what she needs, and adjust in real time.

The same thing happens in UnderBelly all of the time. The moment I think we have our marketing figured out, I realize that our social media engagement has plummeted. Or our sales pipeline has been quiet. I’ve learned having a suite of tools, whether that’s sales prospecting or a content calendar or website strategy, is all just part of the game. I need to assess what is and isn’t working and make adjustment accordingly. Use these tools today, and those later.

The embarrassment wears off. There is nothing quite like the embarrassment of walking a dog who is having a full-body meltdown from simply seeing another dog. But eventually I got past it because instead of focusing on what others might be thinking, I’m focused on simply handling the situation.

The same thing is true in running a business. I remember being so nervous to tell people my business ideas or having people read what I wrote. All I could think about was “Do they like it? Do they think my idea is dumb? Do they ‘get’ my business?” But eventually, after telling hundreds of people about what I’m building, and writing blogs week after week, year after year, eventually you get past it.

Because the real truth of the matter is, whether you’re walking a screaming dog or building a business, most people are rooting for you. And that’s pretty great.


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Profile picture of Olivia Wisden, author of this blog post as well as the CEO/Founder of UnderBelly Creative.

About The Author

Olivia Wisden is the Founder + CEO of TwoLips Creative. She has worked with dozens of brands over the years ranging from city initiatives to product launches and beyond. When she’s not fan-girling over the design team’s illustrations she can probably be found reading a novel or attending a boxing class.


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