What My Dog Taught Me About Being Flexibly Persistent

You can learn a good deal from dogs. Seriously. Hang with me for a minute.

My dog, Mack, is a master negotiator. As a Labrador retriever, his "job" is to fetch things.  Anything. Everything. All. The. Time. He acts like his meals depend on doing a good job and is alwaysusually aiming to please. He wants acknowledgement; a scratch behind the ears, a 'good boy!' exclamation both do the trick, but what he really wants is engaging "fetch" work.

The problem is, he often under-employed.

In other words, his interest in fetching usually exceeds an individual's interest in throwing. Fortunately for Mack there are four people in the family and a steady stream of visitors. He negotiates with us all for meaningful employment and he refuses to take "no" for an answer.

No matter how much we dislike a particular game, no matter how long we ignore his whines, Mack brings a steady stream of options.  He understands the principle of being "Flexibly Persistent." If "no" is the answer, he'll change the question.  Here are a few of his tactics:

Reframe the Parameters


Unappealing old toy? Switch it up with something organic. Nothing fancy needed here! Ready to gather firewood!

Find an upside


Don't worry if the toy sinks, encourages tug of war, frequently disrupts couch naps, and is generally the worst toy on the planet; it's pretty, so emphasize those qualities.

Engage Others


There's no avoiding the Ick! factor of the rope toy. When placed on someone's lap, they must respond. The rope is great for tug of war, and, as a bonus, makes the digestive track output more interesting!

Get Attention


Bring a loud toy into the mix. Not only is this fetchable, it's fun to play blindfolded.

Remember the Fundamentals


Revisit the classics just to see if someone is interested.  Nostalgia is powerful!

Change the Game


Come and get it! If fetch doesn't work, maybe a game of "can't catch me" would be fun.

Stay Visible


Sleep no more. Stay close. Be ready to go. Always!

Does any of this rejection deter the employee?  Is he discouraged by the fickle mood of the employer? Is he tempted to give up?

Not at all.

Staying flexibly persistent means adjusting to your audience, never giving up, and always wagging your tail.

Try it.