In my professional life as a dog trainer, more often than you would expect, it is the owner and not the dog that gets the biggest lesson (and the deepest revelations) about their own personalities and habits.
I have had clients tell me about how, in the process of working with Fido, they have grown to better understand their own emotions and the place from which they have come.
I have received letters and calls from clients (and even a couple of paragraphs in a near-famous autobiography) telling me that they have not only solved their dog’s“wetting” of the carpet, but also how they now have a better understanding of their partners; how their kids could be more balanced and happy; and have even explored and resolved a few anger issues from growing up in a dysfunctional family.
Dogs can sometimes act like mirrors. They take on not only our personalities but sometimes even our ailments! But they do so from a place of purity and childlike innocence that we should strive to imitate.
With this spirit in mind, I will offer a few of the many lessons that hopefully we can all use.
Lets try to be the mirrors this time and learn from our canine friends.
Live in the moment: Dogs learn from the past, but they don’t dwell on it, and they certainly do not sit there and get worried about all the “what ifs”. Most of our worries never materialize, so why torture ourselves? Enjoy the now!
Forgive and forget: This is a hard one for us humans to do but so necessary to enjoy a happier life. Dogs are the masters of forgiveness, you might get mad at them and treat them unfairly but seconds later, they will kiss your face and wag their tails as if nothing had ever happened. When we keep hate and resentment inside us we are only hurting ourselves. I know is easier said than done, but is a good goal to strive for.
Find joy in the little things: We are so overwhelmed with technology and an exaggerated sense of urgency that we forget to enjoy the little things in life. Watch a dog get excited about a car ride, even if it is just around the block! Or what about you coming back home again although you just left five minutes ago! Or tossing blissfully in the grass when the sun hits it just right. Learn to enjoy the little pleasures in life and you will be better able to enjoy the bigger ones.
Express your feelings: Have you ever thought of a dog being a hypocrite, wagging his tail and licking your hand but secretly hating your guts? Dogs are very clear about their feelings and that is a beautiful trait. We live in a society where appearances seem to weigh more than being genuine. People play head-games with each other and get frustrated because in the process they end up lying and losing themselves. Be free! Don’t forget tact, but be genuine about your feelings.
Don’t be afraid of making a fool of yourself: When we were children we were more like our dogs in this sense. If we found it fun to run around in circles we did it! We walked around with socks on our hands (or pants on our heads) because at that moment there were no rules about being happy and play was the ultimate expression of that. Soon we started to grow older and we got concerned about how others might perceive us and so we stopped playing and stopped being silly. Dogs never stop playing, humans should never stop either. Have fun! Be silly! You would be surprised how many others follow your lead.
Be true to yourself: I am a dog trainer, and I can tell you something, if a dog really doesn’t have it in him to learn something, you can not force it. It doesn’t matter if it is a rottweiler, a Doberman, or a German Shepherd, if the dog doesn’t enjoy bite work he wont be a good protection dog and the signs are very clear! Humans should be the same way; if they don’t enjoy a certain career it doesn’t really matter if the family has done the same thing for generations. It is better to break the mold and be and exceptional at something else than to just be mediocre following family tradition.
Love to the fullest!: Anybody that has ever owned a dog knows that this is their ultimate gift to us. Dogs are the incarnation of loyalty and true love. They don’t hold back for fear of rejection or to protect their egos. They just LOVE! Openly and wholeheartedly. I know it can be scary to love so openly, especially after getting hurt, but the benefits are so great that they may just make you stop being afraid all together.