A man sits behind a computer and a pile of paperwork.

Did you celebrate “National Work Like a Dog Day” this year? It seems to fall on the first Fridayof August each year. Normally, the expression “work like a dog” has negative connotations, indicating someone who works hard until they drop, but it doesn’t have to be that way.In fact, working like a dog can be a very good thing!

Cesar tells us that dogs need jobs as a way to fulfill their instincts, and a dog doing a suitable job can be the happiest dog in the world. If you’ve ever seen a herding dog in that second when they see the sheep or goats in the pen for the first time, then you know what this feeling looks like. The dog engages. Here is what she was meant to do, and she’s going to do it. All of her focus goes to the livestock. She may do a little dance and whine. Then, once she’s in the pen, she’s off and having the time of her life.

Don’t you wish you could be that excited about your job? Well, if you pay attention to your dog, you can learn to achieve at least some of that feeling. Here are five ways our dogs show us how to get more out of our working life.

5 Ways to Get More Out of Working

Expect New Adventures, Not Old Routines

Have you ever wondered why your dog seems so excited even though she knows that you’re only going out to walk the same route or take the same drive as every other morning? That’s because she doesn’t let it be the same. Oh, she may check out that tree where she saw a squirrel yesterday and sniff one of the spots she marked to make sure it’s still “hers,” but when a dog looks at the world, they look at it through a new nose and eyes every time.

When you get to work, you only think you’re coming into the same old same old, but that’s because you’re not really looking at it. You’re looking at the memory in your head. Have you ever not noticed some change until it was pointed out to you, like the receptionist dyed her hair orange or they changed one of the framed paintings in the hallway?

If you go in expecting what you’ve already seen, you’ll only see what you expect. Instead, turn it into a game. During the day, really look at things. Read your emails instead of skimming them. Pay attention to your coworkers. Then, the next day, come in and play “spot the differences.” At the very least, it will keep things interesting. But it will also keep you focused on detail, and you’ll become that person in the office who seems to know everything about everything. Working like your dog could get you promoted!

If You Can’t Work for Love, Work for the Treat

We can’t all have jobs doing what we love, but there’s nothing wrong with having a job in order to pay the bills. That’s kind of the whole idea of a job in the first place. Now, have you ever noticed that you can probably get your dog to sit and shake and do all his tricks, while a friend can’t? They can say “sit” all day, and your dog will just look at them like they’re crazy…

Until they have a treat in their hand, and then your dog will sit or shake for your friend just like they do for you. When your dog does it for you, they’re doing it for love, and because you’re their Pack Leader. They don’t need any other reward. But when it’s someone else asking, they better be writing those dog checks in the form of treats if they want results.

It’s the same thing when you have a “paycheck” job. You’re not working for love of your Pack Leader, just for love of that money — but as long as you know that’s what you’re doing, it’s fine. Show just as much enthusiasm as your dog does for the treat.

When You Get Overwhelmed, Prioritize and Focus

If you’ve ever seen a dog with too many toys, you know that they don’t try to play with all of them. They’ll settle on one, and then drag it all over the place. Do you ever feel like you have too many “toys” — things to do at work?

Be like your dog. Pick just one and focus on that until it’s done, then repeat. The choice of which one to pick is up to you. Do you decide based on what’s due first, or do you pick a project you know you can knock out in ten minutes? Whatever you decide, that’s the only toy to play with until the game is over.

If someone tosses another project at you while you’re on that one, the only reason to break your focus is if the new one needs to be done immediately, in which case it’s a shinier, more interesting toy.

Appreciate the Pack

A balanced dog is happiest in her place in the pack working with her packmates toward a goal. You can be happy at work, too, if you have the same attitude. Always remember that everyone else in your company is going through the same thing you are — coming in, doing their job, dealing with frustration or success, etc. Just as you should never hold a grudge, never withhold appreciation.

A “thank you” or a compliment costs nothing but can earn you a lot. If you remember to acknowledge a co-worker’s efforts, no matter how trivial they might seem, you’re going to be the one who starts to get a little extra effort. Be generous in using “please” and “thanks” in all your communications, and don’t be afraid to acknowledge it in front of other workers when someone goes above and beyond.

You don’t have to be quite as chipper and thankful about it as your dog is with you, but even ten percent of the way will make everything more pleasant for everyone.

Don’t Forget to Play

A balanced, happy dog knows how to have fun, and won’t hesitate to do it. Unless your workplace has particularly extreme rules, keep a sense of childlike wonder with you. Bring toys and other tchotchkes to decorate your space. Lighten the mood with humor appropriate to the general tone of your office. Find funny stories in the news that relate to your business, then share them with coworkers. Sing while you’re making coffee — or dance if your singing gets dirty looks. The possibilities are endless.

You don’t have to do this constantly, but little bursts of playtime can be better than a long break chugging coffee, and it can be infectious. And the team that plays together works well together — just like a balanced dog pack.

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