If you are reading this, you are a dog lover, curious, or I made you. Either way, you are here and can learn a thing or two from the dog. Yes, dogs have to learn a lot from their human counterparts in order to be proper pets, especially puppies. They need to learn to go potty outside, the difference between dog food and human food, not to eat furniture, and the cat box is not a snack hut. But what can dogs teach us? Whether you find dogs gross, hairy, drooling bacteria spreaders or cuddly, furry, soft companions, dogs can teach us some very important things.
1. Live in the Now. Dogs don’t worry about the future or the past, they only live in the now. As you throw the ball, the dog stays totally focused on only one object – the ball. Dogs don’t multitask, i.e. talk to other dogs while retrieving the ball. To the dog, it doesn’t matter that you just received a text, the dog is busy enjoying that very moment with you and the ball. Don’t screw up those “live in the now” moments.
2. Be Committed. Remember Mother Goose and Grimm from the Sunday paper comics? Mother Goose goes to get the mail while Grimmy and the cat wait by the front door for her return. To them, the waiting is long, cobwebs grow on the door as they fret the ticking clock. Then, two minutes later Mother Goose walks back in the door. Grimm and the cat are overjoyed at her arrival because to them, she was gone for an eternity. To her it’s ridiculous, but to Grimmy it’s commitment.
3. Follow Your Intuition. Dogs have keen senses, especially sight and smell. Overall, they can be very sensitive to atmospheric changes or can even sense an earthquake or an oncoming seizure. Unlike humans, dogs do not second-guess their senses or intuition and are rarely wrong.
4. Be Honest and Forgive. If you forget to feed the dog or you work a twelve-hour day before you can get home and let your dog out, they still love you. And since dogs do not speak, their communication is more raw and honest. If a dog decides to obliterate your garden or a pair of cozy slippers, it’s usually trying to tell you something. Maybe you haven’t been going for walks, playing ball or replenishing the chew toys. They are honest and express their honesty as best they can, no games. You can’t punish a dog for trying to communicate honestly. The world would be a much better place if we all tried more honesty and forgiveness.
5. Don’t be Mean. Dogs are not inherently mean creatures. They may have personality traits to protect the herd or their master, but meanness is not a trait. Dogs learn meanness through encouragement or consistently bad treatment, just like a child would. There are lots of people who prove dogs are not inherently mean by adopting a dog that has been treated badly, provide lots of patience and kindness, and end up with an awesome pet. We should strive to be as awesome as dogs through kindness and respect.
6. Love the Pack. Dogs are pack animals and are born in litters, usually large litters. They snuggle and fall all over each other to make a puppy pile for their naps. The puppy pile keeps them safe and warm. This is how families should operate. I don’t mean fall all over each other on the couch placed carefully in your cave, but families are meant to love and support one another, just like a pack. Whether you are next door or 1200 miles apart, remember to be supportive.
7. Naps are Good. Although many of us do not have time for this, or in my case never quite caught on to this, dogs take advantage of every spare moment by catching a snooze. Since most of us (including dogs) snore, I wouldn’t recommend taking a quick nap under your desk at work, but if you can catch a few zzzzz’s or close your eyes for 5 minutes during the day, you are likely to find more pep and energy later in the day.
8. Yoga Is Good For You. Dogs created and are the masters of “Down Dog” and “Up Dog”, two of the most basic yoga positions. Watch a dog stretch when they get up. They usually start with their butts in the air in a down dog position, and then fluidly move into up dog. Every yoga instructor in the world follows through just like a dog. The point of yoga is to reach a higher level of consciousness. And when you do yoga, everything centers around your breath. As you are moving and breathing, dogs sense your steady breath and more relaxed mood and want to be part of it. If they end up in the center of your yoga mat, don’t get mad. Dogs are the models for steady breath and yoga.
9. Be Yourself. Don’t take this too far. It’s not okay to sneak a loaf of bread from the kitchen counter, eat it on the floor through a hole in the plastic, and then fart when you get busted. But I will say when this happens to a dog, they don’t apologize for who they are. They can only be as good as they are taught to be, so if they have some faults, it’s probably the failure of a human. To go a step further, dogs embrace their bodies. They don’t whine about being only 6″ off the ground or not having thumbs. When a dog looks in the mirror, its tail usually wags.
10. Love Should be Unconditional. Anyone who has had a good pet knows that their love is unconditional. Yes, there are mean and bad people and there are bad dogs, but there is also a lot of good. Perpetuating bad by acts of unkindness creates meanness, un-forgiveness, separation, bad potty habits, screaming and the inability to take naps.
There are a gazillion examples of a dog’s favorable traits in the world, so I will end with an all too familiar but happy ending story of Zelda the Bulldog. We have all seen her on cards and calendars. She is the truest example of patience and unconditional love. She, just by being her dog self, rescued someone from depression and gave rise to a new career. Dogs really can teach us a lot.