To be a better human, you must not act like a human! This post comes with a warning, you may experience cute dog photo overload!
I have been a dog owner since August 2016 and my cockapoo Louis has changed my life. He has shown me that I can be a better human by being more like a dog. Here are six things that my pooch has absolutely nailed, but his human carer is still very much working on.
1. Dogs LOVE Exercise
In the modern world we sit and our sedentary lifestyles are literally killing us. You know that being physically active is so important to maintain a healthy mind and body, but like most people you probably find it really hard to be active.
If you are lucky you might have found something that you enjoy doing, but frustratingly this does not mean that is easy to get yourself off the couch to go and do it. If you are unlucky, exercise is a mere chore to tick off. It is something that must be endured rather than enjoyed and you just do it because you know you should.
This is not the case for dogs, they love, love, love exercise. When you are at home all lazy and cosy on the couch and you mention the “W” word to a dog, he will stop whatever he is doing and jump at the opportunity to go for a walk. Given the chance he will sprint from one corner of the field to another as fast as he possibly can. Sometimes it is to chase a ball, sometimes he doesn’t even need a ball to chase.
A dog will run for the sheer love of running, tongue flapping excitedly outside of his mouth having literally the best time in the world. You will never see a dog who vomits from too much running, because the concept of “too much running” just doesn’t exist for them.
Be more dog — really enjoy yourself the next time you are exercising. How can you make it so much fun that you will think back on that moment and smile?
2. Dogs Enjoy The Simple Things
In Tony Robbins's “Unleash The Giant Within”, he talks about the hidden rules that we have and that must be satisfied in order to make us feel good. Spoiler alert, these rules are often impossible to meet, so you end up feeling unnecessarily crappy.
For example, maybe your rule is you only allow yourself to feel good if the sun is shining, or if you have lost weight, or if you don’t have an argument with your partner, or if there is no traffic on your way to work. A lot of these situations are outside of your control, so it is no wonder if you pin your hopes on them happening, you will feel disappointed. The trick for human happiness is that you have to let yourself feel good despite things not going your way.
One of the best ways to do this is to be like a dog and enjoy the simple things. A dog doesn’t have an elaborate happiness algorithm. He is happy just chewing on his toy, or looking out the window, or sniffing some other dog's pee. He is happy going for a walk if it is sunny or rainy. He is happy being cuddled and he is happy eating a carrot. His default is happiness and to enjoy whatever is happening to him at that moment in time. In that respect, dogs are the original stoics, they love whatever fate brings them.
Be more dog — rewrite your rules. You don’t need to wait until something happens before you can feel happy. You can choose to feel happy right now, whatever happens.
3. Dogs Embrace Change
Cognitive flexibility is defined as being able to adapt your thoughts and behaviours to new and unexpected events, being flexible in this way is good for your mental health. For example, say you are planning a barbecue and you don’t realise until the last moment that your partner has accidentally gone and bought meat sausages for the vegetarians.
If you are cognitively flexible, you will forgive your partner for their silly error and then go into problem solving mode thinking about how you can salvage the mistake. If you are cognitively rigid, you might feel angry and argue with your partner, you might be so stressed that you can’t think clearly about what else to do. You might also find that these negative feelings last for a long time and that it is difficult to let it go.
Being cognitively rigid can keep you being stuck and unable to grow and move on. When this happens you are at risk of damaging your relationships as well as yourself.
Dogs are one of the most adaptable creatures, they have very little control over what they do yet they can move from situation to situation with ease and energy. They can go from napping to being wide awake and ready to eat. They can go from happily chewing a toy to sitting by the front door because it is time for walkies. They can go from chasing their friends in the park to running back to you because it is time to leave. A dog not get stuck in the past, he is always ready to embrace whatever new thing it is that happens. He expects the unexpected and so is never phased by it.
Be more dog — if something is not working for you, let it go. Things will go wrong, people will disappoint you, you will disappoint yourself. Move on and don’t hold a grudge.
4. Dogs Sleep, A Lot
Here is a 21st century riddle for you. I love sleeping and being well rested, but I hate going to bed. What am I?... Answer: a freaking idiot!
Well it turns out that I’m not the only one who struggles with this, researchers have termed this phenomenon, “bedtime procrastination”. In other words you fail to go to bed at your intended time when no external circumstance has prevented you from doing so.
Do you ever keep yourself up beyond the point of tiredness and then suffer irreparably as a consequence the next day. Do you do this pretty much every day? I do. No matter how tired I am, I force myself to stay awake and then feel shattered the next day. The incredible thing is, I seemingly never learn from past mistakes and I am always optimistic that I will be able to get by on 6 hours of sleep.
This lack of sleep is the root cause of many daily struggles. When you are tired you feel like a different person; a cranky, lazy, irritable person. When you are tired you don’t want to exercise, you don’t want to cook a healthy dinner, and you don’t want to read. You cannot create, you just vegetate sitting on the couch in front of mindless TV munching on takeaway.
Dogs do not suffer from bedtime procrastination. When a dog is tired he sleeps. Day or night it doesn’t matter, when his head hits the floor, or the sofa (yes I allow Louis on the sofa) he is out for the count. Even though there are so many interesting and fun things in the world, a dog has no problem in shutting them out and turning off. He knows that when he wakes up again, they will still be there and he will have the energy to play and explore once more.
Be more dog — just go to bed earlier!
5. Dogs Make Other People Feel Good
I always feel a little bit reluctant to admit that I read “How To Win Friends And Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, because I think it might make me sound like a cold psychopath… But whatevs, I did read it, and the first principle that Dale articulates in how to make people like you, is to be interested in other people.
People don’t want to be friends with someone who is trying to impress them. People don’t want to be friends with someone who has to prove how right or clever they are. People don’t want to be friends with someone who is selfish. People want to be friends with people who are like dogs.
In other words, a dog will openly show you how much he likes you by wagging his tail, jumping up to greet you and trying to lick your face. It is a wonderful feedback loop because you feel happy you made him happy, and he shows his happiness to you.
Talk about getting stuck, I could get stuck forever in the moment of greeting my dog hello as he trots round in joyful circles showing off the present he picked out of the shoe rack for me. It is such a wonderful moment to be in.
Be more dog — show your love openly to others. How good do you think it would make your friends, family or your partner feel if you were as excited, interested and enthusiastic in them as you are towards pets?
6. Dogs Keep Going
I am a quitter and I am not proud. With the exception of my academic study, I have quit most of the things I have started. I quit guitar lessons, I quit piano lessons, I quit martial arts, I quit swimming, I quit the gym, and I quit martial arts again. When the going gets tough, Alison apparently gets going.
This lack of stick-with-it-ness is one of the things I like the least about myself, because if you want to be great at something you have to keep going. You have to keep going even though you are a beginner and you have no skills. You have to keep going to breakthrough a boring plateau and level up. You have to keep going in the face of multiple, abject failures. You have to keep going when everyone around you has quit. You have to keep going even when you don't want to.
On the other hand, dogs are so persistent at going after what they want, that it is actually a recognised compliment in the English Dictionary to call someone dogged. If a dog thinks that you are going to give him some of your food, he will hang around you like a bad smell until you give in. And 99% of the time you do give in, which further rewards their tenacity!
If you have ever taken an over excited dog on a walk without the proper harness apparatus, you will know that a dog will actually harm himself in order to take the next step forward. He will wheeze and pant as he literally strangles his own neck, such is the need to keep pressing forward. When a dog really wants something, no obstacle shall stand in his way.
Be more dog — don’t give up at the first hurdle. Don’t even give up on the second, third, fourth or hundredth. Don’t give up if it is difficult. If it something you really want, don’t let anything or anyone stop you.
Thank you for reading! If you have enjoyed this post please share it with a friend and let me know in the comments below, which of these you struggle the most with. Have you learnt any life principles from a family pet?
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