What lessons can you learn from a dog?

I’ve written before about the importance of greeting people like dogs and today Dan Erickson shares three more lessons from his dog, Shep.

Dan Erickson - Lessons from a Dog
A dog’s character traits to copy: Loyalty, dedication, & persistence. You can learn a lot from a dog.
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Dan is a writer, blogger, teacher, and musician.  He was the child victim of a religious cult and struggled through his twenties, but came to forgive his greatest enemies.  His first book, A Train Called Forgiveness, chronicles his own story in a captivating fictional format.  Dan blogs about writing, music, and life, and emphasizes the importance of forgiveness in our lives.  You can follow him on Twitter @DanErickson8.

About a year ago I rescued a Border Collie/German Shepherd mix. I had spent lots of time researching dogs before I chose this kind of mix.  I wanted an active dog. I also spent several hours with a variety of dogs and took “Shep,” on several walks before making the decision to bring him home. My research paid off.  I wound up with a great dog.

In fact, I have learned a lot about life and business from Shep:

1. Be Loyal: Dogs in general are loyal. Shep seems more loyal than most. If we’re loyal to our family, our friends, and our customers, it will go a long way. Loyalty, unfortunately, is less common among humans than it is among dogs. Having the character to be loyal to others will lead to reaping greater rewards.  When others know that you’ll be there for them, they are much more likely to respond to you.

2. Get after the ball: Shortly after we brought Shep home, we discovered he loves to play fetch. In fact, I have never seen a dog more driven to get the ball.  He is so determined to get that ball, that he would probably jump of a 100-foot cliff to reach his destination: the ball. If we work on our own relationships and business ventures the way Shep “gets after the ball,” we would have the resolve to complete every project we start. I’m taking lessons and picking up Shep’s “get after the ball” attitude.

3. Never give up: Of course, every ball-driven champion loses the ball from time to time, just as we get off track in our own lives occasionally. When Shep loses the ball, he doesn’t give up.  He will pace the entire back yard repeatedly until he finds it. We can all learn something from this.  When we lose sight of where we are going, we can refocus and start again from where we left off.  The key is to never give up.

My dog Shep has taught me a lot. He’s taught me to be more loyal to my family, friends, readers and customers. He has taught me to go after my dreams, to keep writing, blogging, and recording music. And he has taught me to stick with it, even when things get a little off track.

What lessons have you learned from unexpected places?

13 thoughts on “Go Fetch: Lessons from a Dog

  1. Todd Liles says:

    I learned why some people succeed and why some don’t from a man named Sergeant Major Calvin Smithers. He called it the crosshairs of success.

    1. Dan Erickson says:

      Sounds like he was an interesting character with great insight. Thanks, Todd.

  2. Jon Stolpe says:

    We are raising a Seeing Eye dog. He has taught us the value of self sacrifice. He is being raised with the sole purpose of providing companionship and guidance to a blind person.

    1. Dan Erickson says:

      Wow, Jon. That takes this to the next level. Loyalty and sacrifice. Amazing. I’ve always been awed by how dogs can be so selfless and helpful when they are guide dogs.

    2. Matt McWilliams says:

      That’d make a good topic for a post on your blog Jon. 🙂

      1. Matt McWilliams says:

        See it was a good idea 🙂

        That is too cool Jon.

  3. I’ve learned lessons from my dog as well.

    1. Forgiveness – dogs don’t usually (abuse aside) hold a grudge. Each day is a new day. If they didn’t get the beef bone they wanted or the car ride they were hoping for they don’t hold it against you or bring it up when you want something. “What? You want me to come to you? Bite me! You didn’t take me for that car ride yesterday. Why should I do something for you?” Sounds childish from a dog – how much more from us??
    2. Acceptance – dogs don’t care what you look like. Most don’t care if you are in a wheelchair or speak with a slur. Dogs love you, warts and all. They are not judgemental or predjudice. It would do us well not to make assumptions and judgements.
    3. Joy – dogs show sheer joy. They are always happy to see you, even if you’ve only been out of the room! They are equally excited about any adventure, car ride or walk, as long as it is with you. Each toy is a delight. Most edible things are gratefully received. They are happy. Do we reflect joy?
    4. Pleasing – most dogs want to please. If famous trainers are to be believed, dogs are the happiest with a “job” or with direction. They want to please us. They watch us for an opportunity to please. Do we?
    What is that saying? May we be as good of a person as our dog thinks we are.

    1. Dan Erickson says:

      I love it lulu. It’s amazing how forgiving and accepting dogs can be. As for joy and pleasing, did you read Matt’s post about “greeting like a dog?”

      1. Thanks Dan – I’ll have to go back and take a look. New to this blog.

      2. Dan Erickson says:

        I think you’ll enjoy it.

      3. Just read it and indeed I did enjoy it. I really liked the point about focusing. How often we don’t give people our full attention. Thanks.

    2. Matt McWilliams says:

      Another 4 great points Lulu. Especially #1. It’s true that I can snap at our dog because he got in the way and 2 minutes later, he is snuggling with me.

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