Pack Leadership: Experimenting

Posted on July 12, 2010


Back around the end of June, I wrote a post about taking my dogs back to basics. I walked them, on leash, in a park we don’t visit often. That made a difference in their off-leash behavior the next day.

Since then, I’ve continued that. On Saturday, I take the dogs to a park we haven’t visited in awhile, and walk them on-leash. On Sunday, I take them to Grandview Park and walk them off-leash. So far, my experiment is a big success.

Of course, I don’t tell my dogs that I’m experimenting with how I affect their behavior. I stay calm and assertive, and I just do it. They don’t know or care that I’m experimenting. When my experiments work, they are delighted. Dogs love it when communication works. They desperately want to understand what we want them to do. When we communicate that clearly, they love it.

I’ve experimented with teams at work – even teams that I didn’t manage. The difference was, I told them. I said, “I want to try something new,” or, “Let’s try something different.” I made it clear why I wanted to experiment, and that we would adopt the experiment as our new process only if it worked better for everyone.

Experimentation is a way to innovate. It’s a way to improve processes. It’s a method for communicating that you’re open to new ideas, from anyone. Don’t mandate the experiment. Do get buy-in from everyone involved.

On another note…

My scraped up leg


I was watching Kai approach some dogs in the park, and trying to get Rustle to follow us. I was twisting left and right, trying to watch both dogs.  Kai seemed fine. The other dogs seemed fine – but I don’t trust Cocker Spaniels or Chihuahuas, especially when their owner is listening to her MP3 player while throwing a ball for her Lab. Rustle seemed determined to follow a scent behind a screen of brush. I wanted him to see where we were going. Once he knew that, he could make up his own mind about whether to follow me or go all the way around.

My right foot rolled on an uneven surface and I fell. I was wearing shorts. You can see the results just to the left. I stayed calm and assertive enough that the dogs didn’t even notice – after all, it wasn’t their fault. I immediately saw the humor in running a 5K race injury free one day and walking the dogs and hurting myself the next.

Does that mean my experiment failed this week? Heck no. The dogs were better behaved than ever. Experimenting is totally worthwhile. I’m just clumsy sometimes.