Advertising
Advertising

10 Valuable Life Lessons I Learned From My Dog

10 Valuable Life Lessons I Learned From My Dog

My beloved Pomeranian, Puff, turned eleven years old this spring. I got her when I was 22, and she’s been a constant through a tumultuous decade (and one cross-country move). Many of us have fond memories of our childhood dogs. I think of Puff as my ‘adulthood dog’ — she’s been there with me as I’ve tried to figure things out, by my side for all kinds of ups and downs. The older both she and I get, the more I realize that I’ve learned from her. Here are 10 of the life lessons that I’ve learned from my dog.

1. Dogs give everybody a chance.

When I first got Puff, I lived in New York City. I didn’t know any of my neighbors because, come on, it’s New York. You don’t just go around talking to strangers. When I’d take Puff out though, she was enthusiastic about greeting everyone, from the wealthy owners of park-side co-ops to homeless people on the subway. Through Puff, I had countless conversations with my fellow New Yorkers, and got to know people who lived in my building and my neighborhood — pretty much none of whom I would have talked to if it weren’t for the furball at the end of the leash tugging her way toward them (and yes, New Yorkers aren’t known for friendliness, but most also can’t resist a cute puppy). People are quick to judge others based on their appearances, but dogs aren’t — and if you close yourself off to strangers, you’re missing out.

Advertising

32100314_aaf2c8455e_o

    2. Dogs will try anything once.

    Another classic moment from Puff’s puppyhood: At a pool party on Labor Day weekend, she was frolicking around and running away from me when she fell straight into the pool. To my surprise, she immediately started swimming, and swam the entire length of the pool. A couple of years later, when I first moved to California, I took her to the beach, thinking she might like to wade — nope, she jumped into the water and swam. Pomeranians certainly aren’t known for swimming, but Puff loves it (just smelling the ocean air gets her beyond excited). When you’re considering something new — even if it’s something you don’t think is your style — jump in and give it a try. Worst case scenario, you don’t like it. At least you tried! Best case scenario, you’ve found your new favorite activity.

    3. Dogs connect through touch.

    If Puff wants me to pet her, she will push her nose under my hand until I lift it up high enough for her to fit her head underneath. It works pretty much every time, as does her move many people mistake for “shake” — she’s lifting up her paw to ask you to rub her belly. Puff loves attention and petting, and she’s not alone in that. One reason people have surmised dogs enjoy being petted so much is because it triggers the same feelings of connection they got as puppies being licked by their mothers. Touch makes you feel good. But when you’re busy all the time, it’s easy to ignore this part of your life. Even if you live with your partner, you might not make time for for a shoulder squeeze, a back rub, a quick kiss. Sure, belly rubs aren’t what people usually go for, but why not a hug? It’s an instant, free, mood-boosting way to feel more connected.

    Advertising

    188946_10151790932177538_902942610_n

      4. Dogs enjoy the ride.

      Sometimes it seems like Puff’s biggest disappointment is when I leave the house and don’t bring her along. If she gets to come with me though, that’s a whole other story. She doesn’t care where we’re going — sure, it could be the beach or the dog park, but it could also be the vet or just the Starbucks drive-through — she’s just thrilled to be along for the ride. She’s not focusing on where we’re going, and what will happen later. Puff’s got a point here: If you’re just worrying about the outcome, you’re more likely to be upset, frustrated, or angry if things don’t turn out according to plan. Focusing more on the process, and being open to the twists and turns you may encounter along the way, lets you enjoy the journey no matter what your destination.

      5. Dogs make time for a daily workout.

      Even now as she’s getting older, Puff is rambunctious and runs around every single day. Often, she includes me — we go for a walk, or she initiates a game of fetch. If I’ve been working all day, she’ll bring a toy over and bug me until I get up. Other times, she just runs around on her own. No matter what though, she stays active (and she always stretches before and after — her exercise habits are impeccable). Even if it’s just instinct, this is definitely a case where your dog has the right instinct. Staying healthy is all about keeping moving, and the more you make it a habit, the easier it is to motivate yourself to do.

      6. Dogs are always upfront with you.

      When Puff wants something — to go outside, to have a treat, to play — she lets me know. She’ll paw at the door, wag her tail in front of the treat door, bring me a toy. She’s not subtle, and she doesn’t drop hints. She also doesn’t sulk and shut me out if I don’t pick up on what she wants right away. It’s kind of amazing how dogs, who can’t communicate with words, can be much more direct than many people. If you need something from someone, or want them to know how you feel, just tell them! Don’t expect others to be mind readers (and definitely don’t pull an attitude because they lack ESP). Holding in your feelings, being vague, or hoping the other person will figure out what you want will make you less happy and much less likely to get what you’re after.

      Advertising

      puff-gifts

        7. Dogs live for the moment.

        Dogs live in the present tense. Sure, Puff remembers big stuff (what time she eats, where I keep the food) as well as lots of little stuff (like a surprisingly wide range of words), but for the most part, she’s a dog. She doesn’t dwell on the past, she’s not worrying about the future — that’s just how their brains work. It’s not always practical: The time Puff opened Christmas presents until eventually, on a shelf behind the tree, she found (and ate) a bunch of chocolate was super-fun while she was doing it, but the aftermath wasn’t. But if something makes you happy, and it’s not going to make you really sick later, just let go and enjoy it! Drop your anxieties and revel in what’s happening right now.

        8. Dogs happily accept compliments.

        Dogs seek out our praise and attention, and Puff is certainly no exception to that rule. She’s thrilled when both friends and strangers pet her and tell her she’s a good girl — it’s never something she shrinks away from, if anything, she’s more likely to ham it up. Her tail will wag harder, and she’ll lean in for a snuggle. People, on the other hand, are often made uncomfortable by compliments. It can feel easier to try to deflect praise, but if you’ve done something well, you should go ahead and own it! Instead of shying away from a compliment, say “thank you” and accept it. Acknowledging your own accomplishments, and being thankful when others do so, gives your self-esteem a rock-solid (and totally legit) foundation.

        Advertising

        9. Dogs forgive and move on.

        I do plenty of things Puff doesn’t like. Some of them I have to do (like going to work), some are just what I feel like (like if I have a headache and don’t want to play fetch), and others are for her own good (like keeping her out of the trash). No matter what I do though, Puff always — always — forgives me. She might mope for a few minutes, but soon enough she’ll be right back by my side. She’s made me become more adaptable, too, because I always have to forgive her (and in her puppy years, she was astonishingly destructive for a 10-pound dog). In the end, the little day-to-day annoyances like those chewed-up books and sweaters don’t matter; it’s the larger bond and all the happiness she’s brought me that count. Puff doesn’t articulate it, but I think it’s the same on her end. Holding a grudge magnifies what was in all likelihood an unimportant issue, and minimizes the much more significant relationship. Being willing to forgive frees you to enjoy all that you share with those around you.

        puff-rico

          10. Dogs adapt and thrive.

          A few months ago, we adopted a second Pomeranian, Rico, from our local animal control shelter. Puff’s never lived with another dog, and at first she was not too pleased about her new “brother.” We gave Rico a pet bed Puff had never shown interest in, and as soon as we made it his, guess who wanted to sleep in it. But as the weeks and months passed, she warmed up to Rico. When an emergency illness made him extremely sick, she stayed by his side. Where she used to growl at him, now Puff is almost always the one who initiates playtime. I had been worried that having been solo for more than a decade, Puff wouldn’t adjust to sharing her owners with another pet, but I was wrong — she adapted beautifully, and she’s happy having a canine compadre. When there’s an unexpected change in your life — even one that seems scary at first — there’s so much you can gain by embracing it.

          More by this author

          smooth hair 15 Easy Ways to Get Silky, Smooth Hair best online bookstores cheap books 15 Best Online Bookstores for Cheap New and Used Books reasons to rethink fast fashion 8 Reasons to Rethink Fast Fashion 10 Things You Suffered Through That Your Kids Will Never Understand outstanding baby names for boys girls unisex Get Inspired by These 25 Unique and Outstanding Baby Names

          Trending in Communication

          1 What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People 2 How To Be Happy Alone and Enjoy Life 3 10 Warning Signs of Low Self-Esteem and a Lack of Confidence 4 10 Ways To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Overcome Your Fear 5 The Lifehack Show Episode 3: Why Validation is Key to Lasting Relationships

          Read Next

          Advertising
          Advertising
          Advertising

          Last Updated on July 18, 2019

          What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People

          What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People

          Some people just seem to float through life with a relentless sense of happiness – through the toughest of times, they’re unfazed and aloof, stopping to smell the roses and drinking out of a glass half full.

          They may not have much to be happy about, but the simplicity behind that fact itself may make them happy.

          It’s all a matter of perspective, conscious effort and self-awareness. Listed below are a number of reasons why some people are always happy.

          1. They Manage Their Expectations

          They’re not crushed when they don’t get what they want – or misled into expecting to get the most out of every situation. They approach every situation pragmatically, hoping for the best but being prepared for the worst.

          2. They Don’t Set Unrealistic Standards

          Similar to the last point, they don’t live their lives in a constant pursuit towards impossible visions of perfection, only to always find themselves falling short of what they want.

          3. They Don’t Take Anything for Granted

          Happiness rests with feeling fulfilled – those who fail to stop and appreciate what they have every now and again will never experience true fulfillment.

          Advertising

          4. They’re Not Materialistic

          There are arguing viewpoints on whether or not money can really buy happiness; if it can, then we know from experience that we can never be satisfied because there will always be something newer or better that we want. Who has ever had enough money?

          5. They Don’t Dwell

          They don’t sweat the small things or waste time worrying about things that don’t really matter at the end of the day. They don’t let negative thoughts latch onto them and drain them or distract them. Life’s too short to worry.

          6. They Care About Themselves First

          They’re independent, care for themselves and understand that they must put their needs first in order to accommodate the needs of others.

          They indulge, aim to get what they want, make time for themselves and are extremely self-reliant.

          7. They Enjoy the Little Things

          They stop to smell the roses. They’re accustomed to find serenity when it’s available, to welcome entertainment or a stimulating discussion with a stranger when it crosses their path. They don’t overlook the small things in life that can be just as important.

          8. They Can Adapt

          They’re not afraid of change and they work to make the most out of new circumstances, good or bad. They thrive under pressure, are not overwhelmed easily and always embrace a change of pace.

          Advertising

          9. They Experiment

          They try new things, experience new flavors and never shy away from something they have yet to experience. They never order twice from the same menu.

          10. They Take Their Time

          They don’t unnecessarily rush through life. They work on their own schedule to the extent that they can and maneuver through life at their own relaxing pace.

          11. They Employ Different Perspectives

          They’re not stuck in one perspective; a loss can result in a new opportunity, hitting rock bottom can mean that there’s no where to go but up.

          12. They Seek to Learn

          Their constant pursuit of knowledge keeps them inspired and interested in life. They cherish information and are on a life-long quest to learn as much as they can.

          13. They Always Have a Plan

          They don’t find themselves drifting without purpose. When something doesn’t go as planned, they have a plan for every letter in the alphabet to fall back on.

          14. They Give Respect to Get It

          They are respectful and, in turn, are seen as respectable; the respect they exude earns them the respect they deserve.

          Advertising

          15. They Consider Every Opportunity

          They always have their eyes open for a new road, a new avenue worth exploring. They know how to recognize opportune moments and pounce on them to make the most of every situation. Success is inevitable for them.

          16. They Always Seek to Improve

          Perpetual self-improvement is the key towards their ongoing thirst for success. Whatever it is they do, they take pride in getting better and better, from social interactions to mundane tasks. Their pursuit at being the best eventually materializes.

          17. They Don’t Take Life Too Seriously

          They’re not ones to get offended easily over-analyze or complicate matters. They laugh at their own faults and misfortunes.

          18. They Live in the Moment

          They don’t live for tomorrow or dwell on what may have happened yesterday. Every day is a new opportunity, a new chapter. They live in the now, and in doing so, get the most out of every moment.

          You can learn how to do so too: How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Past or Future

          19. They Say Yes

          Much more often than they say no. They don’t have to be badgered to go out, don’t shy away from new opportunities or anything that may seem inconvenient.

          Advertising

          20. They’re Self-Aware

          Most important, they’re wholly aware of themselves. They self-reflect and are conscious of their states of mind. If somethings bothering them, they fix it.

          We’re all susceptible to feeling down every now and again, but we are all equipped with the necessary solutions that just have to be discovered.

          Lack of confidence, inability to feel fulfilled, and susceptibility to stress are all matters that can be controlled through the way we handle our lives and perceive our circumstances.

          Learn about How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life.

          Final Thoughts

          The main philosophy employed by the happiest includes the idea that life’s simply too short: life’s too short to let things get you down, to take things for granted, to pursue absolute and unrealistic perfection.

          For some, employing these characteristics is a second nature – they do it without knowing. For others, a conscious effort must be put forth every now and again. Self-Awareness is key.

          More About Happiness

          Featured photo credit: Charles Postiaux via unsplash.com

          Read Next