Full disclosure: I am one of those fur-baby mamas. I will put a pretty bandana on my dog for no reason. I talk to her like she is human. She sleeps on our bed and I will make room for her (not the other way around). At Christmas, she is spoiled with several delicious treats and cute toys under the tree. I worry about her at doggy daycare and will ask how her day was there when I pick her up. Did she get along with the other dogs? Did she have fun? I’ve been known to remark “She takes after me” when someone says she’s really cute.
She is a big part of our family and certain a big love of my life. It’s also been an amazing journey raising her. While I know I was “training” her to be an appropriate dog and not a total maniac of the neighbourhood, she has actually taught me so much. I could go on and on, but I am going to pick a few lessons that I learned from my sweet pooch.
3 things I’ve learned from my dog:
- Reinforcement, it’s not just for the dogs. I grew up learning that punishment would get results. For real. I remember getting punished in school as early grade 2 by a whack with a ruler to the top of my hand for chewing gum. I learned at a young age, with which much shame I share now, that punishing your new pet would teach them not to do something. In the early days of my work life, no news was good news and you really only heard from management when you messed up. As soon as we got our new puppy, I signed up for puppy classes and 1:1 training. I knew in my heart punishment did not work and I did not want to approach raising our dog like that. And boy oh boy did I ever see how quickly and effectively positive reinforcement worked. She responded so well to kind and caring reinforcement of her good behavior. It made me think about the workplace differently and how important it is for people to feel appreciated, to be thanked for doing a good job and build on their strengths.
- The here and now. This was a good lesson for me. I am a worrier by nature. I worry about all the things that might Hanging out with my pup taught me it’s all about the here and now. It helped me to just stop and be in the moment with her. It’s so simple for dogs. She is excited every single time we come in the door. Every. Single. Time. There is no one in my life that gets THAT excited to see me when I’ve just returned from the corner store. I don’t get that excited to see anyone! And even my walks outside changed from reaching a “destination” to enjoying the journey, to stopping to smell the roses. She’s taught me to try to be more in the moment.
- Unconditional, profound love. I’ve never had kids, so I’ve never felt that heart-wrenching love that parents have with their kids. But when I got this puppy, I fell in deep love instantly. And felt an overwhelming deep responsibility for her care, wellness and happiness. I’ve never loved a creature like this before. She has made our lives so much better and we cannot imagine our family without her. And the gift we get back, is her unconditional love. She is not judging us. She is not asking for anything from us (well maybe a cookie, a walk and a belly rub). She is 100% pure love. What a gift!
Before you get a dog, you can’t quite imagine what living with one might be like; afterward, you can’t imagine living any other way. ~ Caroline Knapp