“From Wags to Riches: How Dogs Teach Us to Succeed in Business & Life”


By Robert Vetere with Valerie Andrews, BenBella Books, Inc., $22.

With a bit of a bite, Robert Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Association, takes the resilience of the family dog into the workplace in an eye-opening mindset, all the time arguing how we can learn from its virtues.

Vetere, who for 35 years has captured the best of canine behavior to teach management seminars, and Andrews present a compelling array of references to companies and their top dogs throughout the country, detailing how their work ethics rival those of Fido.

“Biologists,” he argues, “believe that man’s best friend was a kind of genetic pilot for the human race,” in the process showing us how to collaborate. In the Introduction, Vetere points out, “According to the USA Today poll, 77 percent of CEOs who own a dog judge the character of their friends and business associates based on how they treat their animals.”

Vetere seeks to show the reader that he/she can become a more effective leader by “tapping into the instinctive part of the brain we share with dogs,” i.e. learning from their superior emotional intelligence. Within that context, the authors have fashioned a “What Breed Are You” test aimed at helping you determine your leadership style, i.e. what type of inner dog are you. He emphasizes, “Most successful CEOs are hybrids, combining the best traits of two breeds.”

A key lesson humans can take from the canine world: Dogs don’t tolerate bad leaders. When they are confronted with one, they don’t respond and seek out another. Strong company administrators will recognize this and replace incompetent middle managers, the authors suggest.

Body language, motivational skills, consistent direction, forgiveness and enthusiasm are just a few of the other key canine trademark characteristics Vetere sees affecting the business environment as well. “I often tell CEOs, ‘Look for people with a dog-like enthusiasm for work and your company will never falter.’ “

The empowering “From Wags to Riches” moves seamlessly while combining the authors’ spot-on assessments and analogies with complementing quotes from a wide mix of industry leaders and noted authors.

For example, “ ‘Dogs like to know the rules,’ animal behavior expert Susan Tripp advises her clients. ‘They respond best when you give them a sense of purpose and clear, consistent message.’ “

While the bulk of the invigorating volume is devoted to the business world, a final section focuses on what dogs teach us about life and love, noting how they offer “emotional ballast and a sense of security” in addition to companionship.

But it is best captured in a quote the authors feature from the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Edward Creagan, “A pet is a medication without side effects,” he told USA Weekend. “I can’t always explain it . . . but for years now I’ve seen how instances of having a pet is like an effective drug. It really does help people.”

Vetere’s thought-provoking gem is water-cooler conversation fodder packed with razor-sharp analysis, poignant quotes and colorful anecdotes.