Six Life Lessons From Dogs

by | Apr 22, 2022

dylan-age-4-919x1024-5673136
Dylan at 4 years old (he’s 13 now) — He’s an Andorran Retriever.*

Lately, I’ve been paying special attention to my dog, Dylan, and noticing how he approaches life. From my observations, I think there’s a lot we humans can learn from dogs about how to live our lives.

1. He lives in the moment. As far as I can tell, Dylan goes through his day not worrying about the future or perseverating on the past. He lives life in the here and now. This seems to be a best practice. Of course, we humans have different brains and we’re all bombarded with thoughts that dogs (probably) don’t have. Practicing breathing and meditation can help us be more dog-like in this regard.

2. He pays a ton of attention to people. Dogs were the first animal domesticated by humans and the only ones domesticated prior to the agricultural revolution. Over the millennia, our ancestors favored dogs who were the most attentive to human needs and feelings and thus gave extra care and food to those dogs. Consequentially, dogs who paid the most attention to humans were the most likely to survive.

A primary reason we love dogs so much is that they spend a lot of their time paying attention to us. We can learn from this. If we pay attention to others we’ll be better liked and form stronger relationship bonds. Need help doing this? Check out the GIVE Skill.

3. He doesn’t worry about world events. Shortly after the election in 2016 I saw a tweet that had a picture of a dog and said “This good boy doesn’t care who the president is.” I think about that from time to time when I begin to get worried about what’s happening in the broader world — just focusing on my current environment provides a relaxation response. A similar notion was expressed by a Navy Seal in his advice to stay in your 3-foot world.

4. He gets enough sleep. Dylan sleeps a solid 8 hours each night and takes multiple naps during the day. Getting enough sleep is essential and dogs make sure they get enough. When they are tired they nap. Sleep is the foundation of good health. Here’s the health and wellness pyramid.

5. He takes pleasure in little things. Dogs love walks, treats, bones, naps, and tummy rubs. They don’t need big houses, fancy cars, money, or career success. Even at age 13, Dylan still likes to be chased, play fetch and hide and seek. Dogs take pleasure in the simple things in life. Lately, I’ve been trying to remind myself to be dog-like with respect to the little things in my life: enjoying a cup of coffee, the feel of a breeze on my face, waking up from a nap, relaxing with a book, and so on.

6. He’s always excited to do something with you. “Do you want to go on a walk?” Yes! “Do you want to go in the car?” Yes! “Do you want to go in your backyard?” Yes! “Do you want to go to work?” Yes! And because he doesn’t know English very well: “Do you want to go to the vet?” Yes! In response to every question, there’s an enthusiastic tail wag and he’s raring to go. Imagine if we approached life with such an outlook — if most things were a “yes” instead of a “no.”

*A note on his breed: Andorran Retrievers are rare in the U.S. and are not AKC recognized. They come from the country of Andorra which is a small nation-state between France and Spain. Andorran Retrievers are known for their soft, luscious coats, calm dispositions, and long life spans. Originally bred to catch (but not kill) chinchillas, they like to chase small animals. As their original home is in the Pyrenees Mountains, they like cold weather and are happy napping outside when temps are below freezing.

9 Comments

  1. Dylan looks like my adopted mixed breed dog Cali. She is turning 10 in October 2023! I said who took a picture of my dog?!?! I wish I could share her picture in this comment to you. He’s so beautiful 😍

    Reply
  2. Dylan is a beautiful dog! Where did you get him? Did you buy him when he was a puppy? Everyone should have a loving, attentive dog in their life’s story. Mine was called Lady.

    Reply
  3. I would love to meet Dylan. AND smell his coat. He sounds like a very special dog, although I believe dogs are among life’s greatest gifts. My dogs smell like Fritos, but they’re still awesome. Miss you, cousin!

    Reply
  4. Thank you for this IFOD John! Just what I needed to read on a Friday afternoon of a long week that was filled with life pursuits not on this list. Grabbing the leashes without my phone or iPods for a stroll right now…

    Reply
  5. That is a fine looking dog. Perhaps the reason one poster thinks he smells like fresh flowers is because he’s regularly bathed? Or does he roll in someone’s flower bed :-)?

    Either way – Dylan seems to have life figured out.

    Reminder for me to work on # 3 and #4.

    Reply
    • He’s only been bathed about 5 times in his 13 year life. Yet smells like crushed flowers.

      Reply
  6. Dylan has always been a very loveable dog. If I were to get another dog I would want an Andorran Retriever. One trait you didn’t mention is that he always smells like fresh flowers. Does anyone know where I could find one?

    Reply
    • You stole my fresh flowers comment! Highly unknown characteristic of Andorrans

      Reply
  7. All so true! Our dog does know english LOL and when we say got to the vet or go to kennelwood (when he sees we have suitcases) he goes into a funk.

    Reply

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