Regular readers (both of you) will remember that a few weeks ago I wrote a blog about my new dog Grouse, and how good training produces great results.
The little blighter has taught me another lesson this weekend, about how just going through the motions is going to bite you back (pun intended) in the long run.
I am doing my best to tire him out and we regularly go out for long walks through the local countryside. I am hitting 25,000 steps a day at least, and sadly the only one getting exhausted is me. He like all good working dogs is constantly looking for graft and runs from side to side trying to sniff out rabbits, pheasants or any other wild animal he can find.
Lazily I just let him get on with it. Wandering behind him listening to my Podcasts. Going through the dog walk motions so to speak. That is simply not good enough for Grouse. Recognising that I am not engaged, he ran off looking for something more interesting. I lost him for a good 30 minutes.
As we have just entered spring, (clocks went forward this Sunday) and many of my local fields are full of pregnant ewes, my alarm bells and blood pressure were all ringing in my ears. My local farmer, nice bloke though he is, has the right to shoot any dog harassing his flock.
When eventually Grouse returned, I brought him home and called the breeder for some advice. Sam more or less said what did I expect! It was not the dog’s fault, it was mine for not being more actively engaged in what I was doing. (To be fair he said it in a much nicer way).
When I walk the dog, I have to take a much more active role in keeping his attention. I have to take a ball and a Gundog dummy to throw, I have to whistle him back to sit, if he gets more than 20 yards away, I have to bring him to heel. Essentially, I have to become the most important thing in his life, all the time. It is shattering.
It made me think about how much distraction there is around us all the time, and how we really need to focus on the job in hand.
Active listening is a much-posited requirement of the great negotiator, and it is one of the things that is being lost in this age of ‘over broadcast’ communication. Communication is a two-way street and requires our full attention.
We need to respect the other side by paying full attention to what they are saying and show them that we are listening by staying quiet until appropriate, and the summarising accurately what we have heard. We need to provide feedback by being curious about what they are saying (and not saying) and asking lots of questions.
If we really try to understand what is driving the other side and connect with them through appropriate rapport, they may even listen to us in return.
Next time you get the chance to really listen to someone else, do your best to stay with them. You might learn something valuable. I know Grouse taught me something critical this week.
No wonder dogs are our best friends.