A few days ago, I attended a talk on business development hosted by a local coaching community. The guest speaker said that at the risk of sounding blunt, everyone and their dog is calling themselves a coach these days, and that we need to find ways of differentiating ourselves from the rest of the pack. This made me think – albeit about completely the wrong thing.

I looked down atmy 9-year-old Sheltie who lay asleep at my feet, as she does throughout most of my working day, and I thought that Ellie would indeed make a great coach! Even without any training, she displays a surprising number of coach-like qualities.

Perhaps her most enduring quality as a coach, is her uncanny ability to detect a shift in my energy. When I’m out walking her and I see an Alaskan Malamute across the street, I pretend not to notice and keep walking, but Ellie senses her leash being tightened by a sixteenth of an inch, and is ready to launch into a battle of the canines!

Ellie is an excellent listener who never interrupts, holding space for me like none other. And, she even acknowledges me by being in the room and holding eye contact for extended periods of time. One time, I could’ve sworn I saw her nod.

What I love most though, is that I can be completely vulnerable and authentic around her. In fact, I’d argue that she is perhaps the only living creature around whom I am so fully present in my skin and sense of being. So while Ellie may not be an accredited coach, she is still able to create a psychologically safe and empathetic environment with the best of ‘em!

And finally, there are all the ways in which she challenges me and helps me grow. Whether it’s the functional learnings of being a first-time dog owner or surprising myself with my capacity to love a dog this much.

So while her questions may seem repetitive (Is that cheese I smell? Can you share your food?), she more than compensates for it with all her other coach characteristics.

I guess the guest speaker was correct – every dog could call themselves a coach! Especially mine.