By Megan Patrick, Staff Writer
Living with a canine companion isn't just fun. It has also been proven to boost your health and happiness. But the true value of dogs doesn't stop there. Here are eight valuable lessons your dog can teach you.
No matter how long or short you've been gone, your dog is always waiting beside the door to greet you--even if you arrive in the middle of the night. Sometimes he might be yawning, having woken up from a nap; other times he might be holding a chew toy in his mouth, having cut play time short to welcome you home. And it always feels great to see him there wagging his tail joyfully at your presence. You can do the same for any family member by turning off the TV or closing the laptop for a few minutes and getting up from wherever you were sitting to say hello and ask how their day was. It's an easy to way to make someone feel appreciated.
When dogs are happy or excited their whole body wiggles with joy. They wag their tails and jump around, unable to contain the emotion. And suddenly that happiness becomes contagious! We can't help but smile and join them in their excitement. The same is true for our human friends. When we express happiness openly, we can spread positivity to everyone around us, even strangers. So, if you're feeling good, smile and let everyone around you share in your joy.
Dogs stop to smell just about everything--flowers included. They stay in the moment and explore their surroundings without thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Do you plan every minute of your day? Does allowing yourself to relax make you feel guilty? Too much ongoing stress can lead to health problems, so take a close look at your life and habits and find ways to destress, like enjoying your walk and using it as a time to practice mindfulness.
When your dog wants to go outside, she scratches at the back door. When she wants to cuddle, she crawls right up into your lap (and won't take no for an answer). When she wants petted, she lodges her head under your hand. Dogs are great at letting us know what they need in the moment. They don't expect us to read their minds. When they need something, they tell us. Do you do the same with the humans in your life? Or do you expect your spouse to just pick up on your bad mood and be extra nice to you? When you need something, ask for it. You'll be much more likely to get what you want.
When you take your dog to the park, he probably isn't shy about approaching other dogs. Rather than hanging back by the fence, waiting for someone to notice him, he approaches the nearest animal and introduces himself with a friendly bow or a sniff. If the other dog is receptive, playtime begins. But if the other animal isn't in the mood, your dog moves on to the next likely candidate—no hurt feelings. How many more friends would you have if you put yourself out there more often and didn't take rejection personally?
If you accidentally step on your dog's tail how long does she stay mad at you? 10 seconds? 30? If you come home late from work and have to skip your walk, does your dog get mad and give you the cold shoulder? How might our human relationships improve if we were quick to forgive and let go of grudges? Holding a grudge creates stress for you--not the person who wronged you. Instead of stewing in silence, let a friend know that they hurt your feelings. They'll probably appreciate your honesty. If it's a more difficult or delicate situation, try writing all your feelings out. You don't have to share them with anyone, but acknowledging them will make you feel better.
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. In fact, no mammal comes in as many varieties as the dog. But when a dog meets another canine, she doesn't worry about who his parents were or whether he's bigger or smaller than she is. All she sees is another dog and an opportunity to make a new friend. Dogs approach humans in much the same way. They don't love you any less when you're having a bad hair day or gained a few pounds. They simply don't care. As long as you're there for them, your dog will adore you through good times and bad. When we stop judging everyone around us, we can look at ourselves with more kindness, too.
When you're sick, depressed or just having a really bad day, there's nothing more comforting then when a pet lays down beside you just to keep you company. Our companion animals can tell when we're not feeling our best, and they do the one thing the know how to help comfort us: just be there. We can do the same for our friends and family. Sometimes, sitting quietly while a friend talks—without giving advice--is all that's needed. Nothing beats a friendly shoulder (or paw) to cry on.
Dogs never get tired of going for car rides. Even if the destination is just the park around the corner, the ride is always exhilarating. They stick their heads out the window and lean into the wind to pick up all the passing smells. Whether your journey is one of working toward weight loss, better health or a more balanced life, you'll be more successful if you focus on the process rather than the final goal.
Dogs are not only natural clowns, they are completely unselfconscious. They don't care how silly they look running, they just run because it feels good. They don't worry if their fur is mussed, they're ready to leave the house without so much as a glance in the mirror. So the next time you hesitate before trying a new fitness class or going to the gym with no makeup on, just think of your dog. If dogs were allowed in Zumba, they'd be there in a heartbeat.
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