What do we learn from dogs?
As author Orhan Pamuk wrote, “Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen”.
Those of us who love dogs already know we can learn many life lessons from these beloved pets. Unlike us, Fido lives in the moment. He (or she) is easy to please, enjoys the simple things in life and takes time to smell the roses (or anything else). It’s little wonder dogs seem happy all the time.
Before we take a look at what we learn from dogs, find out how they became man’s best friend.
The origin of the domestic dog
As Sir Terry Pratchett wrote, “All dogs dream wolf dreams”.
That may well be true because ultimately all dogs are wolves. From the humble spaniel to the German shepherd, the pomeranian to the rottweiler, all dogs hail from grey wolves who turned to humans many hundreds of years ago for warmth and food.
It is believed that somewhere between 40,000 to 20,000 years ago, wolves and people figured they could help each other out. If wolves hung around a camp or settlement, they could warn of incoming danger. When they did so, humans gave them food.
The relationship was a natural match. Before long, wolves began to change. They chilled out a little and learned to lounge around and play with their humans. Life became less about finding food and more about providing protection. Wolves became domesticated and turned into dogs.
With less need to hunt for their own food, the other talents of these early dogs began to emerge. They learned to obey and track animals on behalf of their owners. Selective breeding began and with it the gradual process of creating the myriad breeds we enjoy today.
Over the years, dogs showed us how they could inhabit a thousand different roles. As they adapted to these roles, their bodies changed. Now we have long, lithe hunting dogs, small, scrappy ratters, droopy faced scent hounds, tiny lap dogs (perhaps the cleverest because they found a way to be useful by being cute) and strong, energetic sheep and cattle dogs. And we love them all!
Top ten life lessons from dogs
So what can we, the so-called superior humans, learn from the humble pooch? As it happens, there is plenty that Benji and Lassie teach us. Let’s assess what we learn from dogs and list the top ten:
Take joy in life: If there's only one lesson to learn from our four-legged friends, it is definitely joi de vivre, the joy of living.
Show a ball to a dog and watch his eyes light up with joy. Get out the leash, open a tin of dog food, give her a pat on the head. You will see a level of joy that we humans are rarely able to achieve.
When you’re with your dog, witness a simple love of the moment for what it is worth. Dogs take pleasure in running, in giving affection, eating and simply living. Canines take pleasure where it is to be had and truly make the most of it.
What’s the lesson? Wag your tail a bit more, get excited, lose that cynicism and let the joy of the canine flow through you.
Really enjoy your food: Seriously, watch a dog eat. They love it. They go at it with the gusto of a zealot. From mongrels to purebreds, pups worship at the altar of the dog bowl and their God is good.
If you’ve ever attempted mindfulness, you will understand what Rex is experiencing. It’s a total NOW moment. You don’t have to scoff down your food fast enough to choke like some dogs can’t help but do, but turn off the TV and devices and enjoy your food for the pleasure it is, just like Fido.
Be brave: Dogs get in and give it a go. They try most things once. Sure, sometimes it doesn’t work out. In Jack London’s book White Fang, the eponymous half wolf, half husky, tries to bite fire the first time he sees it. It doesn’t go well but the point is, he is brave.
White Fang confronts his fear of the strange hot stuff and learns a valuable lesson. And that willingness to try new things doesn’t always go badly for him. We could learn a few things by getting in and having a crack like the humble hound.
Make the most of the outdoors: “To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring — it was peace.”
Author Milan Kundera understood the beauty of the companionship of the dog as well as the glory of the outdoors. Of course, sitting quietly is not the only option for enjoying the outdoors with a dog. Watch a dog outside and you will see them make the very most of it. They will get dirty and love it, they will leap into the water. They will run, frolic and enjoy the freedom of nature.
Like dogs, we shouldn’t be afraid to get dirt between our toes, to let loose or to sit back and enjoy the wonders of the outdoors. There is always time for a bath after the outdoor play is done… and we like a wash far more than dogs do!
Forgive and don’t hold a grudge: When you tell your dog off or if you accidentally step on their tail, they forgive you.
You may suffer through a baleful look or two but before long your faithful friend will be wagging their tail once again.
People make mistakes. Dogs know this and forgive and forget. They don’t see any satisfaction in holding grudges because it takes away from their time to enjoy life.
Learn a lesson from your dog; let go and move on like our furry friends, giving yourself more time to be happy.
Listen to your loved ones: If you have ever vented your problems to your dog, you will know what we mean. A dog will sit and listen. S/he will not bear judgment or offer unneeded advice but will simply listen and accept.
Humourist Jerome K. Jerome summed it up well, “They [dogs] never talk about themselves but listen to you while you talk about yourself, and keep up an appearance of being interested in the conversation”. You will feel better after pouring out your woes to floppy and loving ears. Many of us could learn to be more like dogs in this way. Let your loved ones talk and simply be there for them.
Love unconditionally: Your dog is always overjoyed to see you. In fact, often dogs are overjoyed to see anyone.
In the immortal words of Dug, the talking dog from Pixar’s Up!, “I have just met you, and I love you!”. Dogs are full of love and are happy to share it with all. Leave judgment behind and learn to love your fellow humans as much as dogs love us.
Learn to chill: The late great comedian George Carlin was famous for loving his pets and he had many jokes about his dogs. Perhaps his best was, “What do dogs do on their days off? Can’t lie around—that’s their job”.
Carlin was on point. A dog knows how to lay around. They know that to make the most of their on-time they should make the most of their off-time. Lay around when you can and enjoy it. It’s the time to recharge and get ready for more action!
Let loose and play: Once they have recharged, dogs love playtime! Dogs are always ready to play and enjoy themselves.
Learning another of the best life lessons from a dog, we should learn to play. Dogs don’t worry about being judged or looking silly. They know how to let loose and play purely for the joy of playing.
You don’t need to own a dog to run around, play with a ball and have fun.
Be loyal: Everyone knows that if you want loyalty, you get a dog.
Dogs’ loyalty to humans is as famous as it is unending. Dogs have worked for us, protected us, lived with us, loved us and even died for us.
There are so many examples of loyal dogs through history and in fiction. Consider the famous Edinburgh pooch Greyfriars Bobby. When the loyal little Skye terrier’s owner passed away in the mid-1800s, Greyfriars Bobby was said to have sat loyally on his grave for 14 years until passing away himself (there’s a great old movie but keep the tissues handy).
Gundagai in NSW has the Dog on the Tucker Box statue. This commemorates the story of a dog who waited patiently for a master who passed away.
Then there is cinema’s Red Dog, who travelled the world in search of his lost master. While the movie is fiction, the story is said to be based in truth.
If we as humans could achieve even a small percentage of this level of loyalty, how much better would we be as a species?
Amazing dog stories
Take a look at these three incredible dogs:
In 2015, in Cedar Rapids, Idaho, a miniature Schnauzer called Sissy escaped her family’s home, only to show up at the same hospital as Nancy Franck, her owner.
A security guard had found the dog wandering inside the hospital. Sissy walked twenty blocks on her own to find Nancy. As a reward, she was allowed a special hospital visitor’s pass.
According to Russian website RT, a young mother in Russia took her three-month-old baby and her pet rottweiler to a park. She ended up having a few too many drinks with her friends and went home and to bed without the baby.
"Only in the morning did the woman realise she had brought home neither the baby nor the dog," reported RT. Fortunately, the dog had stayed with the baby overnight, and both were found safe.
Closer to home, a dog called Rockie received special honours for bravery. At only four years old, the English bull terrier dragged his beloved owner out of a life-threatening fire. Rockie received the Purple Cross Award at Parliament house in Sydney on 19 November 1997.
As reported in Australian Geographic, “Rockie caught wind of a fire burning in their house. He jumped against the owner’s closed bedroom door to wake her up. As the flames crawled toward the bedroom, the owner eventually woke up and opened the door, only semi-conscious from the smoke inhalation. Rockie dragged the owner’s body through the flames to safety. According to the RSPCA Purple Cross Recipient report, the owner would have been dead within minutes without Rockie’s heroic actions.”
Here at La La Land, dogs run the office
At La La Land, we know the value of dogs. 10-year-old Thomas and 9-year-old Chris spend their days here at the office lending valuable advice and keeping things joyful.
Thomas makes it his duty to keep the office safe with enthusiastic greetings and assessments for all visitors. Chris demonstrates the importance of Zen with a healthy balance of excitement for treats and toys and relaxation for all times in between.
The dogs and the good example they set make for a fun and healthy office environment. Who could stay stressed and grumpy when there is a dog around to help make sense of the world?
A final wag of the tail
Of course, we have to remember, no matter what we learn from dogs, we are only human.
Peanuts creator Charles M. Schultz (of Snoopy and Charlie Brown fame) summed it up, “All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn’t a dog”.
We can only strive to attain the purity and goodness of the dog. But while we strive, we can also celebrate our canine friends in their furry perfection, even if it is a little slobbery sometimes.
To celebrate your love of dogs and all they teach us, head to La La Land. We have a super-cool range of canine-themed gifts and cards.