Lessons in Life from a dog.

Meet Rufus, our 6 year old working Cocker Spaniel.  Our first dog ever, and a life changer.  How on earth did we manage without him before?  He is a ball of fire, the most motivated creature I know, and like most dogs, loyal, trusting, forgiving and eager to please beyond measure.

It’s funny what you can learn from what is in effect a new family member.  I’ve been paying attention to this recently, and wondered, if you’re a dog owner or just someone who notices behaviour, whether you can relate to these.  He does certain things very consistently, and each of them seems on the face of it to be illogical, until you think about it more deeply.  At which point you start worrying about whether humans are as smart as they make themselves out to be.

The first thing I have noticed is that when he has something negative to deal with, he charges at it full tilt, without a moment’s hesitation.  I notice this when he has his daily brushing session after his morning walk.  He doesn’t much like having his ears brushed (they are long and curly, and bits of bramble and twigs get caught in there quite easily).  If you had ears like that, neither would you.

Instead of pulling away when you get to that zone, he moves towards you and turns his ear towards you.  This has the effect of knocking you off your balance a bit, and reducing your energy.  It puts you literally on the back foot;  a  bit like the Jujitsu principle, I believe (said the armchair Olympics expert).

He does the same with his ball.  When he gets to the point on his walk where he has burnt off some initial energy, he starts to become more playful , and one game is to pretend to give you the ball  and then snatch it away just before you can get it from him.  He drops it, lowers his head over it, and walks towards you a bit.  Again, you find yourself having to retreat a bit in order to get the right angle to retrieve it with the ball chucker.  He usually wins this little game.

Final example of the same principle:  we often have a strength game, a kind of doggy equivalent of an arm wrestle.  He has a chewy knotted rope thing ( we call it Raggy) which he presents to you (normally by whacking you on the back of the knees with it) and then it is a tug of war. You grab one end, he pulls in the opposite direction, and it’s usually a stalemate (even though he weighs less than 1/6th of what I do).  If I am losing I will then raise my arm into the air, with Rufus clinging onto the end of Raggy with his teeth.  As if this were not enough of a feat, he will then still be trying to get me to drop it, which he does by coming towards the problem again:  basically he attempts to climb up Raggy by letting go and then resnatching higher up whilst still suspended in the air by his teeth.  Once I can feel his hot breath on my hand, I tend to release fairly quickly.

The other lesson I wanted  to share is his determination to succeed.  He embodies Churchill’s speech given to Harrow school in 1941:

“Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Rufus literally never gives up.  I remember once getting fed up with chucking a ball which he had chewed beyond useful service, whilst walking on our local beach.  He had dug a hole some 20 minutes previously, so I put the ball in there and covered it with rocks and sand.  He thought I had thrown it for him, so went off in search for it.  He spent the next 10 minutes flat out, scouring the beach by smell, and eventually retrieved it, by smell alone, from under 6 inches of sand and rocks.  Amazing, and inspiring.

The final lesson for today is how he completely lacks Mental Limits.  This photo says it all.

The first backward facing sledge puller in the South West.

I wonder whether you have similar lessons that you have learnt from animals?  Anyone got any good Goldfish lessons?  Watch this space for the next instalment;  what you can learn from a Cockerel…….

About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at www.hownot2.com
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8 Responses to Lessons in Life from a dog.

  1. julielines says:

    Hi Mike, what a GREAT post! Thank you for sharing it! Yes animals are certainly able to teach us many things. They have great intelligence and sentience, far beyond what we have been led to believe. Of course they view the world very differently from us – they have species laws that they follow, just as we do from our human perspective. They also have the amazing ability to be much more present much more of the time than most of us do – which gives them access to much greater resources, in terms of flexibility and intuitive feel or gut reaction. Also, they learn to adapt very quickly and wholeheartedly and not forgetting the fact that they effectively interact with a species that does not speak their language. I believe we are all interconnected, we all are one and with this perspective we all have much to learn and to embrace from all life around us, whatever their species.


  2. Michael, I’d like to nominate you for the “Very Inspiring Blogger Award.” Your blog is an inspiration. See award details at http://davidkanigan.com/2012/08/22/439-am-inspired/#more-9663.


  3. Pingback: 4:39 am & inspired… – Lead.Learn.Live.

  4. jengiz Gocer says:

    Whatever we give our attention to, grows.
    Even plants and flowers behave that way.
    This happens with humans as well so long as we learn “suspending Judgment ad pay attenting with love as we do to other living beings.


  5. Beautiful pictures Michael. Heartwarming story. Thanks for sharing.


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