Lessons you can learn from your pet

Meet Vaio – My pet, a 4 year old Indian Dog.


Yes, you read it right; he gets his name from the popular laptop brand. It was a moment of creative laziness and my wife’s fondness for the brand that led to the choice of name. His name however is an instant conversation starter and we are glad we made that choice.

We adopted him from PETA (People for Ethical Treatment for Animals) in Delhi when he was a 25 day old puppy. In the time he has spent with us, we have grown older, changed jobs & moved cities but he hasn’t changed a bit. He is exactly what he was as a puppy. Friendly, energetic, lovable and an indispensable part of our family. There are many things that Vaio has taught us and soft skills & relationships are among the top lessons.

There are numerous research reports in India validating the lack of soft skills among our youth. These reports (usually produced by educational companies in the business of teaching the same skills) highlight why soft skills is the missing mojo leading to unemployability.

There are several definitions of soft skills and if you ever ask an expert or a soft skills trainer, you will hear a bunch of things ranging from communication, interpersonal skills, confidence, team work etc. You can get started on most of these skills by attending a workshop, seminar, signing up for courses and the works. There is enough evidence to believe that most soft skills type training is not very ‘sticky’ i.e. retention of concepts, application of the learnt behavior is not easy.

Every dog lover knows that these are the skills that dogs are made of. I often wonder, whoever thought of the ‘Dog Quadrant’ in the BCG matrix, was obviously not a dog lover, else they would not have been labeled as low utility.

Here are the top 4 soft skills that Vaio demonstrates and how portable they are in our lives:


Hands down, this is the no. 1 trait that all dogs demonstrate. You are gone for 30 minutes and they make you feel like you were away a lifetime. In my mind, enthusiasm makes up for everything else that you may not have. It’s a key attribute that most hiring managers look for. Enthusiasm is all about the energy that you transmit when you meet others; it gets manifested in a firm handshake, a warm smile, an eager tone & active body language. Watch a dog closely and try replicating what you see in private. It may seem dramatic but it’s natural to tone down when you are with people. So it’s good to overdo it a bit in the beginning and then work out your own balance. So the next time you meet someone new, try looking them in the eye, give them a warm handshake, make them feel like you are really excited to see them.


Vaio is not gifted with the ability to speak & the skill of language but he does an excellent job at communicating. The lack of language empowers him to use all other & arguably more powerful tools of communication – emotions, eyes and body language. All this non verbal clue business is something we learn in workshops but we take it for granted because of our ability to speak. Communication gets limited to learning the language and communication skill courses get reduced to ‘fluency in English’.


Vaio has an inbuilt adaptive sense. He does it by quickly getting acclimatized to any new environment, connecting with the people around and finding references that he can relate to. As an analogy, this is what having a ‘mobile mindset; or being ‘cross-culturally sensitive’ is all about. The ability to connect with people almost puts blinders on the discomfort of adapting to a new environment. This is a lesson I have learnt personally, when I travel for work or partner with cross functional teams or move cities, I always look for people I can connect to and everything else follows.

The ‘Now’ mindset

Vaio knows his time is limited (10-12 years) and boy does he make every moment count! The knowledge that he does not have forever makes him focus on the moment. It’s always about ‘now’. He jumps around as if there’s no tomorrow. What a powerful lesson for all of us to learn. The myth that we have forever makes us procrastinate, not give 100% to the task we are engaging in and live with an illusion of ‘tomorrow’. For Vaio, today is tomorrow’s yesterday.

All learning & development professionals know that the best learning is experiential. So if you really want to try an experiential way of improving the softer aspects of your personality, get your own ‘Vaio’.

Every day, Vaio wakes up excited to be alive and excited to see others. He has succeeded by spreading friendliness, love and cheer wherever he goes. His attitude is infectious and I only wish we learn more from him and try becoming more of him.


(Photo courtesy –http://www.itsadogslife.org/)

So the next time you hear someone say in a fit of anger ‘It’s a dog’s life’, remind them how lucky they are :)

Sunder RamachandranSunder Ramachandran is a highly energetic training leader with extensive experience in building capabilities for large teams in the offshore/outsourcing space. He is currently a Senior Training Manager with JLT Group, one of the world’s largest providers of insurance and employee benefits related advice, brokerage and associated services including an office of over 850 employees in Mumbai, India. His articles can be read at http://www.scoop.it/t/learning-leader. He is passionate about social learning and blogs on the learning experiments that he is leading at http://sundertrg.tumblr.com. Sunder was a training entrepreneur for five years and has gained valuable experience on both the ‘Buy’ & ‘Sell’ side of the training business.. Connect with him on  LinkedIn and on twitter@sundertrg.




  1. Subodh says:

    Besides the mentioned skills, they are loyalist & a great pal to have..Vaio now would be 7 years old.. ..

  2. Nagesh says:

    Nice read, yes we can learn many good things from animals.

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