5 Awesome Lessons from Bear

Bear, Bernese Mountain Dog, Berner

As some of you may know, this summer I got a puppy and named him Bear.  He’s got a huge heart so my original goal was to train him to work as a therapy dog.  While I had all sort of great intentions of what I would teach him, it turned out that he taught me (or reminded me!) of quite a few really important things about health and wellbeing. 

  1. We feel better when we move around outdoors.  Have you ever seen a dog that’s been stuck in doors in one spot all day? They’re not very happy! Often irritable, cranky, agitated or unhappy.  I think this applies to humans too! None of us are at our best when stuck inside at a desk all day or on our couch all evening.  Having a pup forces me to walk several times per day and I have to say that I feel better because of it!
  2. Experience their emotions in the moment.  Dogs don’t seem to have very long memories.  If you step on their tail or give them the best treat ever they show an emotional response but about 10 minutes later, it passes.  Dogs don’t hold a grudge or ruminate or live in memory of the past.  They experience an emotion, it passes and then they are present for whatever happens next. 
  3. Physical contact. Dogs crave contact from their human companions.  This might be a pat on the head a back scratch or just sitting at our feet.  Humans need physical contact too.  It releases oxytocin which makes us feel good, there’s a ton of research on this topic! Today make an effort to shake someone’s hand or give them a hug. 
  4. Be with the people you are with.  With all of our modern technology it’s easy to be in the same room as someone but not really BE with them because we are totally engaged with our phones, tablets or laptops.  Luckily this summer and fall I’ve had a reminder of that.  When I’m at home with Bear and ignoring him for technology, he reminds me with a whimper or a nudge. 
  5. Play.  Lastly, Bear is happiest when he’s being silly, running around or battling in tug of war.  Adults need to play too sometimes: dance like no one is watching, make a mess, let the inner child out.  It’s good for our stress levels and allows us to relax from the pressure of being serious all the time. 

Bonus: I’m borrowing this one from an incredibly moving short film about a dog named Denali.  (Click here to check it out).  "People can learn a lot from dogs. When someone you love walks through the door (even if it happens 5 times a day) you should go totally insane with joy."

Animals have a lot of wisdom to share with us if we pay attention.  Whether it’s engaging with your own pet, visiting a pet you know, visiting a park or zoo see if you can spend some time with animals.  Or just reflect on which of these simple lessons you could take away.