How My Dog Teaches Me Self-Compassion
Updated: Apr 4
I did it! I talked my husband into a puppy! There has been an indescribable yearning growing in the pit of my stomach to get a dog for about a year. All logic told me dogs take a lot of time and energy to train and care for, yet something was pulling me to towards a family pet. We needed a pet...or so I thought. Well, surprise! I was the one who needed a pet - it's funny how the universe knows what we need, if we'll listen and act. Our new puppy is teaching me far more than I will ever be able to teach her.
Meet Nugget, my favorite Poodle puppy!
The first week Nugget was with our family, I heard a comment from my favorite YouTube yoga instructor (Yoga with Adriene) about how dogs help teach us self-compassion. That thought settled into my brain like the fresh snow that was falling on my lawn outside the window of my home office (yes, I do my yoga in my home office). Although I made no conscious effort to seek out how dogs teach us self-compassion, the answers came to me as I cared for our new, furry little family member.
Dogs Show Us Unconditional Love
When we were babies, learning to walk, if we fell down we didn't say mean things to ourselves or vow never to try again. We just got up and tried again. That instant forgiveness of mistakes was one of the reasons we loved ourselves so much. Before the world got a hold of us and filled our minds with shoulds and shouldn'ts, we had unconditional love for ourselves. My puppy reminds me every day what unconditional love is. She loves me through my mistakes. She loves me in the morning when my hair resembles something close to a matted camel who has just crossed Sahara. She loves me in the evening when I'm frazzled and ready to go bed. She just loves me.
Training her through positive reinforcement, I'm learning how much better it is to love others (and myself) to a higher state of being. If she has an accident in the house, we don't make a fuss. We clean it up and take her outside. When she goes potty outside, she gets lots of praise and a treat. Focusing on what she does right, trains her to continue doing those things. Focusing on what I do right, helps me to see all the good things I do, and deepen my love and compassion for myself.
Dogs Reminds Us to Be In the Moment
Right now, so many things are new to our puppy. New sounds, new smells, new places, and new people. She is constantly pausing to just look and sniff - taking it all in. When we're out for a walk and she pauses, perking her ears and tilting her head to the side, I will pay attention and see if I can pick up on what she is. It's kind of a fun game, but it helps me sharpen my focus skills as well. It is in the generous present moment where true change happens. We can't make a future choice or a past choice, we can only choose in the moment, and in the moment is where both our future and are past join.
The anxious future and the regretful past melt away when we stay in the present moment. It is much easier to have self-compassion when we are not dwelling on past mistakes or worried about futures ones.
Dogs Remind Us to Live Life and Take Breaks
I'm a bit of a workaholic. Watching my puppy move from 1,000 miles a minute to looking like a canine corpse a few seconds later makes me chuckle, but also shows me a powerful lesson. It's okay to enjoy life and it's okay to take breaks. I don't need to beat myself up emotionally if I don't get everything done on my list for the day, or if I take an afternoon nap. It's not only okay, it's healthy to pay attention to my body and what I need each day. Guilt-free self-care is part of having compassion for ourselves.
Dogs Remind Us to Connect with Nature
There have been studies that show the healing benefits of nature. Connecting with nature can lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety and depression, decrease the risk of heart disease, and it can also help us reconnect with ourselves. Nugget REALLY loves nature. She's constantly sniffing, listening to, and staring at various things as we make our way up and down the trails near our house. When she pauses, I'll pause. When she listens, I'll listen. I don't do the sniffing everything I can part, but I do remind myself to take deep breaths and enjoy my time outdoors. When the walk is over, I always feel a peaceful presence, like nature has wrapped her arms around me and whispered that I'm a valuable, lovable being. This reminder gives me more self-compassion when it feels like I'm making one mistake after another.
Have I convinced you to get a dog yet? That's okay if it's a no. Today, I simply wanted my readers to take a look at their lovable canines and realize that these furry friends probably teach us more than we realize. Thank your pet today for all they do for you.