5 Things My Dogs Taught Me About Human Beings
1) Body Language Is Crucial.
Ever heard someone say, "Ninety-three percent of all human communication is nonverbal"? That's a mangled attempt to explain a study done by Albert Mehrabian back in 1967, and while it's not true, dogs show that it's not all that far off the mark. Dogs, which are actually below Honey Boo Boo on the brains scale, manage to effectively communicate with us and each other without ever saying a word. They can also interpret tone freakishly well. If you don't believe that, after your dog gets sick and poops in the house, say "Who did this?" in a deep voice and he'll put his head down, and slink into a corner looking as guilty as if he were personally responsible for Old Yeller getting rabies.
This is why you should try to keep a nice, even tone to your voice. When you walk, throw your chest out, because it tends to line your posture up correctly. Keep your head up, move deliberately, spread your body out, and don't overreact physically to stimulus. On some level, people pay just as much attention to tone and body language as dogs even if they don't hump your leg to let you know they're interested in getting to know you better.
2) It's Not All About Words.
If you're someone like me who writes for a living and places a lot of emphasis on words, one of a dog's most amazing traits is the ability to make people like him without ever saying a word. How does a small, shaggy creature with bad hygiene, the brains of a two year old, and the inability to speak make everyone fall in love with him? By displaying a host of traits that we admire in both humans and animals. Whether they're playing with a toy or chasing a squirrel, dogs are enthusiastic. They're loyal. When I was wiped out sick in bed, 20 hours a day with the Norwalk virus, my dog Patton was right there with me. If I was in bed, he was in bed.
Dogs are always trying to find a way to touch you, whether it's being petted or just lying across your foot. They're genuinely excited to see you, even when you've just been gone for 30 minutes. How many people can we say that about? Dogs trust you, believe in you, and know you're a good person. How many people in your life have you managed to get to believe that all the way down to their bones? There's nothing wrong with being suave, smooth, and sophisticated, but just remember that our four-legged friends are none of those things and few of us will ever be as well-liked as a friendly dog.
3) Happiness Is About Doing, not Relaxing.
Dogs spend a lot of time resting, relaxing, and sleeping. It's a good life, one that most of us want for ourselves one day after we're done working. But the funny thing about dogs is that they don't aspire to spend their lives sleeping in a hammock on a beach. Although dogs seem content while they're living the lazy life, they come alive when they're moving. My dog Jackson is happy to go outside; he jumps around in little circles. Patton? Nothing got him more excited than running feral cats or squirrels out of the yard. That was his job and he was a pro at it.
We're not any different. Sure, it's fun to do nothing every once in awhile, but life really hums when we're in motion. Are you bored? Get moving! Do you need some more excitement in your life? Get moving! Do you want to be so happy that you jump around in a little circle? Get moving! A little rest is good for you, but ultimately, it's just the filler as you move from chasing squirrels to playing fetch...or, well, whatever your equivalent happens to be.
4) A Lot More of Your Behavior Is Instinctual Than You Probably Realize.
My first dog, Patton, was a Jack Russell terrier mixed with a Pomeranian/husky/beagle. My second dog, Jackson, is a terrier mixed with a Welsh Corgi. Temperamentally, Jackson is about as far apart from Patton as humanly "dogishly" possible. Patton was afraid of the world, while Jackson would probably stick his head into a wood chipper to see how it works. Patton was dominant, while Jackson is more submissive. Patton trusted very few people, while Jackson has never met a human being he didn't like. Patton was terrified someone might take his food. You could take treats right out of Jackson's mouth and he'd be fine with it. Yet there are so many weird similarities as well. Patton circled three times before lying down for the night; so does Jackson. Patton played with other dogs the same way, too, by chasing the dog and then letting the other dog chase him. Patton seemed to get a perverse thrill out of gutting toys, going on walks, and chasing squirrels, cats, and birds – just like Jackson.
Point being, the behavior of both dogs was largely pre-determined and we underestimate how much of our behavior is just as wired in from birth. Whether you prefer math or English, whether you are better at sports or chess, what type of woman you find most attractive, and how well you manage your emotions are determined by genetics. That doesn't mean you can't shape those tendencies, but once you realize you're going up against your natural inclinations, it's worth considering whether you should be trying to roll with your instincts or fight them. If you just don't like math, you're a fool if you become an accountant. If you fly off the handle at the slightest provocation, you should work on that, but you should also try to avoid situations someone with a cooler head could handle with ease. Don't live your life trying to convince yourself you're a lapdog when you're really a pit bull.
5) Live in the Moment.
When you get back from the grocery store, it's the greatest moment of a dog's life... well, that is until it's time to go outside to use the bathroom. Then, that's the greatest moment of his life until it's time to go for a walk, play with a toy, ride in a car, eat dinner, go to bed, get up, etc., etc. Dogs are absolutely fantastic at living in the now.
They don't spend all day brooding over the girl who broke their heart, what they're eating tomorrow, or how their visit to the vet is going to go next week. There's a lot of wisdom in that because it's very easy to get so caught up in what's already happened or what you fear is going to happen tomorrow. Then, next thing you know, you've ruined today. Remember yesterday and plan for tomorrow, but don't ever forget that life is lived in the now.
Previously from John Hawkins at PJ Lifestyle: