7 Things Dogs Can Teach You About Life.

Having a dog is a good reminder of the realities of life, from the good to the bad to the essential, bare-bones of existence, if you can pardon the pun. So here are seven things my dog reminds me of on a daily basis.

1: There’s no such thing as unfair.

If we’re playing tug of war with a rope and I use one hand and she grips with her mouth and uses her paw to loosen my hand, she isn’t cheating. If she shakes her head violently, she isn’t cheating. If I shake the rope and pull it away, I’m not cheating. If I hold it out of her reach with both hands I’m not cheating. There is no such thing as fair or unfair in reality. You can’t explain these concepts to a dog. They’re human ideas designed to keep a human social order, that vary from culture to culture, person to person and day to day. In life, anything that gets you ahead is fair. All anyone can do is stop you getting ahead.

2: Violence is necessary.

Puppies and dogs play by fighting. Their games involve ripping, tearing, pouncing, chasing, crushing, pinning… They learn the pressure points on each other and on you. They learn bite inhibition: how hard they can bite before it hurts. Their entire entertainment package is fight, fight, fight.

Because violence, whilst not completely inevitable, is necessary. You need to be able to vanquish your enemies, kill your prey and scare off your predators. You need to learn to be violent even if you’ll never use it, whether you’re a rabbit, a dog or a human.

3: Prioritize your long-term survival.

The average dog doesn’t think twice about stealing your food when you aren’t in the room. It takes a long time to teach them not to steal because their basic instinct is to eat. You need to teach them that their wellbeing is at risk if they steal. This is because a dog puts its long term survival ahead of anything else. The main drive is to survive as long as possible and whatever gives the best odds of that, wins.

4: Don’t hold grudges.

Whether you “cheated” in a game, punished them for stealing food or unknowingly hurt them, they don’t care. After the act, once the order is re-established, they just want to carry on as normal. If you are repeatedly hurtful, they adapt their behaviour but do not become vindictive. A dog lives in the moment, adapts to change and, as such, does not hold grudges against you, even if you hurt it.

5: Learn as much as possible.

The puppy can’t keep anything out of under her feet, in her mouth and up her nose. Leaves, dirt, dead animals, flowers, bottles, toys, ropes, wires… It takes a long time to chase her away from exploring.

On the flip side, she is always eager to please. It may take 20 or 40 goes, but she will learn that command and enjoy learning it, whether for praise, treats or just the fun of it.

The point is, she’s always ready to learn. The more you know and adapt, the healthier, more efficient and happier you are as an organism. And dogs have this nailed. Learning is a pleasure to them.

6: The pack order is your existence.

Dogs are constantly vigilant for changes in the pack order. They work out who’s in charge very early on and act according to the perceived pack order. Some dogs may decide that the teenage son is clearly running the house and some bitches put themselves before the children after their first season. The pack order dictates every part of their life and it needs to make sense to them.

There is always someone leading and if you refuse to lead they will lead for you.

There is always someone issuing commands and if no commands are issued they will worry.

Every position in the pack is always moveable and if they think someone has dropped out, they are eager to fill in.

And even in human society, if we adopt the same approach we make progress.

7: Enjoy life.

Ultimately, whatever you’re doing with it, strive to have fun. Dogs will turn training into games, enjoy learning new words, practise fighting and role play as different pack members. They will run and jump when there’s free time, grab the best bites of food when they can, cuddle anyone who’ll cuddle them back and try and ensure everyone else is doing the same thing.

After all, whether you’re on this planet for fifteen or eighty years, it’s way too little time to have it all and way too much time to be so serious about it.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

10 Ways to Take Care of Yourself.

We all know and understand the message of looking after ourselves first. Everything from the little reminder during airline safety videos to advice for first time mothers reminds us that you can’t help someone before making sure you’re safe yourself.

But it can be hard to stick to this. Most of us have someone we put at the same level as ourselves, if not before us in terms of wellbeing. All of us have at some point harmed our health by trying to care for someone else. It’s all well and good to say “look after yourself”, but when the time actually comes, all you want to do is give everything to your partner, child, friend, relative or pet. When we try and look after ourselves first we can feel guilty or worried.

So what are some ways we can take care of ourselves when really all we want to do is run around looking after other people?

1. Quiet corner.

This is first because it’s the very first thing you can do. Everything else comes in no particular order, but this is big. Find yourself a nice, quiet corner of the house to call your own and to make comfortable. Try and keep any stressful work away from it and make it pretty clear that it’s your territory and refuge. It doesn’t have to be a room. The bath, a comfy chair or even the garden could do. Wherever you are comfortable, happy and out of the way of household traffic.

2. Eat well.

Eating healthy is vital to looking after yourself. Make sure that you eat food that energizes you and refreshes you, avoid food that makes you sluggish or unwell and don’t eat too much or too little. Eat when you’re hungry and not just when you get the time. Drink plenty of fluids. Don’t let yourself get away with a diet you’d never feed someone else. You deserve as good and healthy a meal as anyone else.

3. Bedtimes.

Set a bedtime and stick to it as much as possible. Sure, you may get up to care for someone who is sick or to put a child back to bed, but in principle, lights out is lights out. Try and guarantee yourself a routine, some proper rest and some bedroom privacy.

4. Dress up.

Make yourself look nice every day. Maybe not dressing to the nines, but wear practical clothes you like seeing yourself in, sort your hair, put on a bit of jewelery, a dusting of makeup, get rid of hangnails and dirty hands. Seeing yourself looking good will boost your confidence and mood.

5. Have a treat.

Even if you’re making sure to eat really healthy, budget properly and stay focused, from time to time give yourself a treat. It doesn’t have to be something massive, expensive, extravagant or anything of the sort. But if you’re the sort of person who will, in a week, buy £20 of chocolate for a loved one and not allow themselves a boiled sweet for the entire seven days, you’ll understand when I say: it really isn’t that big of a deal. Have a little treat. Enjoy it.

6. Get a hobby.

Find something you can do that you love. It might be scrapbooking, painting, dancing, cooking, rappelling, sewing, anything. But find something you love and make a habit of doing it. Maybe you’ll go to a monthly book club or maybe you’ll set aside twenty minutes a day to garden. Whatever it is and however often, take some time to just be you and have fun.

7. Exercise.

No matter how healthy you’re eating, how well rested you are and how little time you have, try and find a few minutes a day to exercise. It will build your muscles, burn through fat, elevate your mood and get you fired up and ready for the next challenge. Maybe you can only manage a four minute emergency workout in the morning. Or maybe you have three hours a week to dedicate to jogging. Whatever it is, do it.

8. Unwind.

Just because you have your quiet space and bedtime doesn’t mean those are the only times and places you can relax. Sit down with the kids and read a book. Watch a film with your partner. Just soak in the bath. Do something once in a while to completely put your mind and body at ease.

9. Get out.

It can be very easy to get locked between work, home, shopping and any other closed spaces, like bars, clubs, gyms, restaurants or friends’ houses. But the great outdoors can help you in many ways. Just looking at plants can relax you, fresh air does a body good and sunlight provides life-giving Vitamin D. A brisk walk in the park once a week could make life so much easier.

10. Laugh.

Laughter being the best medicine is a commonly repeated and mocked expression. But, in reality, it does help. Laughter can provide pain relief, relax you, make you happy and boost your immune system. So find something comical, sit down and have a good laugh. Laugh even at the bad jokes, the inappropriate ones, the offensive ones, the ones you don’t like. Laugh more and you’ll feel better all round.

Do you think you look after yourself well? Or do you always put others first and yourself last? How do you look after yourself? How could you improve? Feel free to share.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!