Series on Assertive Behaviour: The Three Guard Dogs

The story below demonstrates how the correct balance of being alert, proactive, friendly and calm can make anyone the most valued resource for an organization.


A Morris the dog was walking past a property one day and he was suddenly confronted by a large black dog who barked ferociously through the fence at him. “What are you doing?’ asked Morris. “I’m guarding this property.” responded the black dog. “What are you barking at me for? asked Morris.

“Because you’re a threat. Everyone has the potential to break in and steal from me, so I’m not taking any risks and am barking at everyone.” Morris shrugged his shoulders and walked away, thinking about how much energy the black dog was unnecessarily wasting.

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The next day, he walked past the same property, but instead of being confronted by the vicious guard dog, he was met by a furry ball of fluff. “What happened to the large black dog?” he asked. “He annoyed his owners by barking all of the time, so they gave him away and replaced him with me.” replied the ball of fluff.

“You don’t look very scary.” observed Morris. “I’m not. You never have to worry about me being too angry.”

“What would you do if someone tried to steal from you?” asked Morris. “Why would anyone try to steal from me? I’m such a nice cute doggy that no-one would ever take advantage of me.” Morris shrugged his shoulders and walked away, hoping that the little ball of fluff would be OK.

The next day he walked past the same property and was met by a large golden retriever. “What happened to the little ball of fluff?” Morris asked. “Some intruders came last night and all he did was roll over to have his belly scratched while the place was ransacked.” replied the retriever.

“So, what’s your strategy for guarding this place?” asked Morris. “I’ve learned that not everyone’s a threat, so there’s no point in barking at everyone and keeping them at a distance, but I’ve also learned that being nice and polite won’t always cut it either as not everyone has my best interest at heart. Others will always know that I’m here, but I feel comfortable enough with myself that I don’t need to rant and rave to be heard or look after everyone else’s needs to be liked. I’ll just be calm and clear when communicating, decreasing the risk of being taken the wrong way.”

“I think I’ll be seeing a lot more of you,” said Morris, suitably impressed as he went on his way.

Let me encourage you to learn from this story that you don’t need to be an angry, rabid dog or a delightful ball of fluff to be successful in what you’re doing. Instead, learn to express yourself with clarity, honesty and calmness.