7 unexpected benefits of having a dog

This is our dog, Caesar.

Looking both cute and mental.

He is now nine months old and the end of the puppy-phase is in sight. Though it’s going to be just like coming through the night-waking or teething phases with children, isn’t it? “Oh I miss when he was all small and cute, it passed too quickly.”

It has been full-on, I must admit, but a great lesson in choosing to embrace and be grateful for difficulties (I wrote another post about this – take a look).

Here is my rather tongue-in-cheek list of unexpected benefits:

  1. You are forced to be tidier.

Caesar is a Miniature Labradoodle (cross between labrador and miniature poodle). We think he is about 80% lab though as he is a real scrounger. Due to the layout of our house we have to keep him in the kitchen with a pet gate in the doorway. We do let him into other rooms but only under supervision as he chews EVERYTHING. He also eats EVERYTHING. So the problem with having him in the kitchen is that it probably reinforces his innate desire to find food. He is always jumping up to the dining table or kitchen counters and can reach a surprising amount.

Gone are the days when I could nip to the toilet upstairs in the middle of food prep and just leave ingredients on the chopping board. Gone are the days when we could leave our bowls from breakfast on the table and go and get ready for the day if short of time and deal with them later.

However, It turns out that there is actually always time to do these things that we can easily feel aren’t urgent. We aren’t the tidiest folk by nature (creative-types, innit?), though we have greatly improved because we’ve had to.

I can’t really complain (though I do) because I don’t like tidying but I like a tidy house. I don’t like cleaning but I thoroughly enjoy cleanliness. I feel annoyed at him when he eats our stuff, but I have to say, I am grateful for how it forces us to live.

  1. You have yet another opportunity to battle feelings of inadequacy

Just when you thought you had enough – hooray – here is another one. By way of example, this is a typical dog-issue and what it can make me think and feel:

Dog keeps jumping up at visitors.

How I can feel about it:

  • We aren’t training him well enough.
  • We got the wrong breed, he’s too big.
  • We obviously don’t walk him enough.
  • This was a mistake – we need to phone the Dogs Trust.
  • The visitor also thinks all of the above.

What I probably should think:

  • It is in a dog’s nature to jump up.
  • Training takes time – he has to fight his strong natural instincts to stop.
  • He’s still a puppy and will settle down.
  • So what if they think I’m an inadequate dog owner! I am one because a perfect one doesn’t exist (except the dog whisperer who is actually a wizard).
  1. You have to talk to people you don’t know.

Dog owners (on the most part) are a friendly bunch and often tend to have dog walking routines and therefore get to know one another if their routines are similar. There is apparently a dog walkers’ Facebook page for our local park.

It gives a sense of community and an opportunity to connect with people that you otherwise might not.It also enables you to get advice and often reassurance from people who are obviously in the same boat.

  1. It’s another opportunity to face rejection.

I don’t mean because if your dog is like ours they will easily change their allegiance and trot off with another family because they’d rather hang out with them and their dog instead of you (if I had said that aloud there would be only a tinge of resentment marring my tone).

I mean because some people won’t want to talk to you. They won’t like your dog prancing around their dog that is so small you could confuse it for a guinea pig, is called Princess, and just shakes constantly.

In fact, they might get seriously put out and bark “walk on” at your dippy dog who is a great judge of knowing when he’s wanted.

Though me or my dog being rejected by a stranger doesn’t tend to affect me deeply, it can ruin a dog walk for me and make me feel as though we need to leave this public space that is largely occupied by dogs off the lead. I can rationalise it and think it’s their problem if they want to bring their dog out to a public space and don’t want it to be within five feet of another canine. Yet we all hate the thought of being judged or resented and it can be worse from a stranger because you usually don’t have any opportunity to explain yourself.

But, why should you? People will judge you about everything; sometimes you’ll be misunderstood, sometimes they’ll have completely nailed it. It’s ok to be wrong and who cares whether they know you’re right if you are. Your worth doesn’t lie with every Tom, Dick and Harry. Just walk on.

  1. If you train them, you get to enjoy the feeling of having a living thing obey you (if you don’t train them… see point 2)

I went for a walk with friends in half term and took the dog. As we were trying to leave she was talking to her children and, as we parent’s often find, she was being completely ignored. She walked towards me and said:

“Don’t you just love being ignored?”

“Oh yes.” I say. “It’s my favourite. You should get a dog if you love it so much!”

Like kids, dogs know when it’s in their best interest to pretend you don’t exist. However, when you do get training down, it feels good when they trot towards you after you’ve called them.

  1. You get to reinforce the lesson that your kids need to be tidier otherwise their favourite toy becomes the latest chew toy.

Thankfully nothing too precious has been destroyed. Though I did have to dispose of a baby doll and though I encourage being straight with your kids even if it’s going to produce an emotional outburst and disappointment, I couldn’t bring myself to tell my daughter her doll had been maimed and was in the bin. The doll she pretend-breastfed, nurtured, rocked to sleep, and loved dearly. It’s the stuff of nightmares, surely.

  1. It is another opportunity to wear ‘L’ plates.

I don’t know about you but I get so impatient with myself for not knowing. For being in that phase of learning. For making mistakes that I need to learn from. It would be so much easier to just… KNOW. To be born with all the knowledge I need to never make a mistake.

It sounds like nonsense because it is. To get the best from life we need to cultivate a love for the process of learning. Simply because we are always in that state and pretending we are not leads ultimately to the break down of relationships. No one wants to work with that person who thinks that they have arrived, that they don’t make mistakes, and that everyone needs to know that, no matter what. I wouldn’t want to be in a long-term relationship with them either.

So, to sum up:

Get a dog if you want to have more growth-inducing challenges in life. (Or maybe have mine?)

Fluffy cuddles make up for a lot.

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