152: 5 Things We Can Learn from Dogs

152: 5 Things We Can Learn from Dogs

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I have lived with dogs my whole life. Currently, we have three dogs here at the farm: Cash (a black lab/golden retriever mix), Cheeto (a yellow lab), and Coco (a bloodhound/german shepherd mix). I’ve been watching my dogs lately (which isn’t hard because they’re never more than an arm’s length away) and I’ve been thinking on some things they do that maybe us humans would do well to mimic. There are many things we can learn from dogs—here are five that I’m learning from mine.

Dogs are excited about life

Dogs are excited to get up in the morning. They are excited to do the thing they want to do: eat, chase the ball, sniff the grass, whatever. I often call my dogs a bunch of goons because of their early morning—no, constant—zest for life, but really… what if I approached life just a little bit more like they did?

What if instead of trudging to the coffee pot and making my way to my home office or the barn, what if I was excited just because I opened my eyes and woke up? What if I was actually excited to see the things I came upon—even if they were the same things from the day before? I’ve seen my dogs’ exuberance in greeting a barn cat—the same cat they just saw and greeted last night during chores.

A black lab and a fluffy gray cat standing in front a big red barn.
Cash greeting a floofy kitty again. Like he does every single day he goes out to do chores.

Dogs want to be with their people

Dogs want to do stuff with their family. They want to interact with their people. When you come home, that dog is waiting at the door.  When my husband gets home from work every morning, the dogs are right there wagging their silly tails, excited because Hey, my dad is home! Hey everyone! Guess what! He’s home again!

Do we get that excited when our people get home? Or do we just barely look up from the dishes or the computer and nod our head at them? Do we acknowledge them at all?

Dogs sit with their family. How many of you have dogs that aren’t small enough to be lap dogs but they still try to be lap dogs—and probably succeed at being lap dogs! There are no small dogs in our house, and yet somehow they all think they need to be on our laps or sitting right next to us, no matter how squished they are.

Dogs love their people and want to be with their people. I think we can learn a lot from that.

Dogs know who is in charge

Dogs have a place within their pack. They figure out who is in charge of what, and that’s that.

Cheeto, our yellow lab, is the boss here—but you wouldn’t know it to look at her. However, if she’s had enough, she lets the other dogs know it’s enough and they listen to her. I think what’s important to point out here is that Cheeto doesn’t walk around like she’s Queen of the World, bow to me, while barking and growling and being obnoxious. In fact, you might assume the dog in charge is Coco, the Bloodhound German Shepherd mix who likes to talk and bark—she’s constantly in your business and commenting on that business. But she’s not in charge—she’s really just an obnoxious Karen, always trying to add her two cents about a situation.

Our bloodhound german shepherd mix looking judgmentally at something off camera.
Coco with her judgmental eye, just about ready to comment on what’s happening. But nobody listens.

If Cheeto barks, she only has to bark once and the other dogs follow whatever orders it was that she barked. In fact, I’ve seen Cash or Coco sitting in a spot that Cheeto wants to sit, and she just walks up to them and stares at them—and they move.

What can we learn from this? To be in charge you don’t have to be an obnoxious jerk. Just know you’re in charge. Only bark when you have to. 

Dogs pay attention

Dogs know what’s going on around them. They constantly pay attention and notice things. My dogs know when the wind changes. My dogs know when there is a bunny on the other side of the yard. My dogs know when the neighbor is trying to work in her garden and they have to tell you about it. My dogs know when my husband’s vehicle is coming down the dirt road—before I even hear it. They know when he pulls in the driveway. And when he parks. And when he opens the car door. And when he’s walking up the front steps. They even know when there is a cat here that doesn’t belong here, even if it looks exactly like another cat that already lives in our barn.

If we had the situational awareness that dogs had, just think of how much we would notice in our day to day lives.

Dogs live in the moment

Dogs fully experience the moment they’re in. If it’s tug of war time, they’re all in. If its time to eat, they’re 100% focused on eating. If it’s time to chase the squirrel, the squirrel chase is on! If it’s naptime, it’s hardcore naptime.

My yellow lab laying upside down, asleep in a green recliner.
Cheeto, completely involved in her own naptime.

Imagine if we immersed ourselves in every moment like a dog does. Imagine if we could fully experience every moment we’re in—the cup of coffee, the snuggle, lunch with a friend, collecting eggs from the barn—instead of always feeling like we have to be thinking (and therefore living) ten steps into the future.

I’m not saying it’s bad to plan ahead—I’m all about being prepared for the next thing—but not at the detriment of what’s happening right in front of our face. If we’re always living in the future, we’re never in the now.

Here’s the thing: the now never comes back, and the future is always out there.

Could we really just approach the moment with here I am, here’s what I’m doing, and that’s what it is without having to worry what someone thinks or what we have to do next? I think the dog knows the next thing that comes is…the next thing that comes. And the dog is excited for that thing—whatever it is.

I think there are lots of things we can learn from our dogs. Is there anything you’ve learned from your dog?

— Amy Dingmann, 6-3-21

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A happy dog in a field, eyes closed with his tongue hanging out.


1 thought on “152: 5 Things We Can Learn from Dogs”

  • Dogs know how to frolic. Humans (especially adults) don’t folic and do things like roll in mud puddles, dash through fields with wontan abandon, grab a rope hanging from a tree and swing on it, or run and hop off the porch so fast that they do a faceplant into a bush. And when dogs do something supremely stupid, they don’t try to hide it. They check to see if anyone saw it then shake it off and try again. They don’t whine and cry over every little boo-boo. They don’t care if you smell their farts (or whatever they just rolled in the pasture). After all, “stinky is in the nose of the sniffer,” not the sniffee. Lastly, they don’t waste food … ever.

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