What Can We As Humans Learn From Dogs?
Our dogs are constant sources of amusement and love. They are also wise and benevolent teachers. As a dog trainer friend once said, “You don’t get the dog you want, you get the dog you need.” So true! Here are what even the most challenging dogs can teach us:
Sing out loud! A friend’s dogs sometimes spontaneously burst into “the song of their people” in the middle of the night. One has a deep houn’-dawg drawl and the other adds yipping coyote-style staccato howls. Together, they sing for almost exactly 45 seconds and then go straight back to sleep. Sing in the car, sing in the shower, sing when you’re alone, but when the spirit moves you and you wanna sing, don’t hold back. Sing.
Live right now. The past is history, tomorrow’s a mystery (and not even guaranteed) so the only thing you can enjoy, affect and experience is right now. Go smell all the smells, because tomorrow they will be different.
Let it go. Dogs remember when they’ve been treated unkindly, but they don’t have expectations and so they don’t hold a grudge against you when last-minute plans mean the dog park won’t happen today.
Go outside and play every day. Life shouldn’t be all about work and chores and obligations. Make play a priority! Unleash your inner puppy and move your body joyfully, exuberantly, vigorously… play keeps you young in mind and body!
If you’re happy and you know it wag your tail… all right, jump for joy instead. Be grateful for the everyday miracles of the sun coming up, flowers blooming, birds singing, snow falling, the first sip of coffee, the smell of baking cookies, music, art, endorphins, your body… there is SO MUCH to be grateful for!
Be you. Dogs are who they are. A Chihuahua doesn’t want to be a Border Collie any more than a Boxer wants to be a Greyhound. Don’t waste your life trying to be someone else. Be you. How boring would it be if you were just like someone else? Embrace your inner dog breed (you know which one you are most like) and run with it.
Overcome your fears with love. Love yourself, and you will be more confident in everything you do... just like one of those miracle stories of abused, aggressive dogs who turned into love muffins after they were placed in a loving home.
Drink lots of water. Dogs listen to their bodies and take care of their needs. Did you know that the body’s thirst and hunger signals are virtually identical? Often, when you think you’re hungry you’re probably thirsty! Drink a glass of water first, wait 15 minutes, and see if you’re still hungry. This is the easiest way to drop a lot of excess weight, because you’re giving your body what it needs instead of mistakenly stuffing it with more calories.
Enjoy the experience of the journey. Stick your head out the window. Smell the smells. Does it really matter where you’re going, or is the fun in the journey? After all, when you get where you’re going, life doesn’t stop. There’s always a new destination, a new goal, a new challenge. Sometimes you go on an unexpected scenic detour that ends up being a great adventure. Sometimes you don’t achieve your goals only to find out that another achievement fulfills your desires even better. So it’s not about opening the car door and arriving, it’s about moseying along and enjoying the quirky delights, challenges, triumphs, mistakes, treats, failures, and surprises along the way.
Be loyal and dependable. A dog will never let you down. They are your pack, and they are with you through the good times and the bad. Be that kind of friend, parent, lover, business partner, neighbor, and community member.
Do nothing, sometimes. A friend’s dog loves to lay by the patio door and stare outside for hours if it’s too cold to go out. Or if he’s outside, he’ll sit in the driveway in silence and look at the world happening around him. Why are we always rushing and doing and going on to the next thing and the next thing? STOP. Just BE, for a while. You’re a human being, not a human doing. If you pause and do nothing for a while, the world will keep spinning. And you won’t miss out. In fact, you will miss out on the delights of the moment if you are always in a rush.
Enjoy a belly rub and be affectionate. Freely give and receive affection and physical touch. It’s necessary for your mental health. Well okay, maybe a hug is more appropriate than a belly rub, but you get the idea. Touch lovingly, and touch often. Your dogs jump around in excitement when you come home because they’re genuinely delighted to see you. You don’t have to jump on your friends and lick their faces but do express your delight at seeing them!
Do everything to the best of your ability. A service dog or a working dog gives 100% effort to what they’re doing. “Lazy” isn’t in their vocabulary. When they’re on the job, they’re on the job. Forget perfection. It’s an unattainable goal. Instead, focus on always doing your best.
Sleep more. Dogs don't have jobs or toilets to clean, but they do honor their need to sleep. You will be much more alert, productive, energetic, and happy if you get your zzzz’s.
Savor the good things. Take the time to enjoy the things you love. Your dog can spend blissful hours demolishing a rawhide bone. You can slow down and truly savor a home-cooked meal. Stop what you’re doing and really listen to that song on the radio. Be fully present and appreciate how your senses help you experience life.
Follow your nose. A dog can be trotting happily along when suddenly an irresistible smell catches her nose and she’s into it 100%. Nothing will distract her until she finds the source of the smell. If something catches your eye, it’s meant for you so follow up. It could be the answer, opportunity, soul mate, or fun experience you’ve been looking for.
Be dogged about what you want. If something is important to you, go after it, stay focused, and get it done. When you throw a ball, your dog is focused on getting the ball and won’t stop until he’s found it (and maybe even brought it back for you to throw again).
Enjoy the silence. Do we always have to fill our lives with sound? No. Sit with your loved ones in companionable silence, like a loyal dog sits silently beside you. In fact, you can make it a daily “meditation.” Sit with your dogs every day, in silence, just listening without the mental chatter, and experience the moment as they do.
Do what makes you happy. Every dog has their favorite things to do. Some love to hike, some love fetch, some love to chase, some love to gnaw on bones, some sit by the window and bark at passers-by… as much as you can, do what you love. Remember, life is not all about work and “adulting.” Do what makes your heart sing, every day!
Move past your mistakes. If you scold your dog for misbehaving, she may sulk and act terribly guilty for a little while, but very quickly she’s back to her normal happy self. It’s done, she learned not to do it again, and she’s not going to dwell on it. You can do the same.
Love unconditionally. Dogs love unconditionally. They don’t love you less if you mess up. They don’t love you less if you can’t do what they want you to do. They still love you when you yell at them. It’s not always easy to love unconditionally, but the best thing you can do for your inner peace is to forgive and see others with compassion.
It seems as if your furry friend deserves a special reward for being such a great teacher. Check out Dog Massage Techniques For the Home.
Can you think of some other things dogs teach us? Tell us in the comments below!