Pack Leadership: Reading Energy

Posted on September 14, 2009


Kai, flat-coat/chow mix, and Rustle, miniature poodle

Kai, flat-coat/chow mix, and Rustle, miniature poodle

Not all dogs have the same energy levels. Dogs don’t have the same energy level all day. Kai, for example, won’t fall deeply asleep while one of us is around. If we leave the house or go to bed, only then will he let himself truly, deeply fall asleep. Rustle, on the other hand, has places he goes when he wants to sleep deeply. If he’s not in any of them, he’s paying at least a little attention.

I see the differences throughout the days that I’m home. I can see them when I walk them. Rustle has to work harder to cover the same ground as his big brother, so he tires more easily. I have to balance our activities with their energy levels. Reading energy levels may be the most important thing that I’ve learned about working with dogs.

I find that it carries over to working with people very easily. I can tell very quickly when someone is angry, kidding around, tired, or depressed. I use that to adjust my communication style and, when I’m in a leader role, to assign tasks. That being said, of course, humans have communications tools that dogs don’t. When I “read” humans’ energy levels, I make a point of asking about or commenting on what I think I know. “Are you feeling alright?” “Well! You seem to be in high spirits.”

Additionally, when my dogs give me the energy I want, I reward them. When they’re calm and submissive, they get their walk or some treat. When they check in with me on our walks, I compliment them.

I don’t try to manipulate them or their energy levels. I don’t force things when their energy isn’t right for it. In the workplace, I take my understanding of energy levels into account. Sometimes I need to take some extra time and reassure my team, or give them a pep talk, or uncover what’s bothering them so I can take it off their plates.

“Energy levels” aren’t touch-feely, pseudo-science, gobbledygook. Pay attention to them and you’ll gain new insights into what your team needs to meet its goals.

Posted in: Leadership