Getting a dog is not like buying a piece of furniture for your living room; once you bring them home, you take on a big responsibility, too. Thankfully, aside from many other benefits of dog ownership, it's also the kind of responsibility that allows you to become more aware of your surroundings, events as they happen in the moment, and become a more mindful person.
After all, that is one of the things humans love about their canines – our companions don’t hold grudges or worry about the future. They live in the present moment. All they care about is right here and right now; a concept that many of us don’t get the pleasure of experiencing in our fast paced lives. With that in mind, here's how dog owners can be more mindful, and how being a dog owner can help you live more in the present.
Brushing and Grooming
Grooming your dog can be a time for a different type of meditation. It's a great way to bond with the pet, and teaches you mindful practices. Comb through each section of fur slowly, starting from the shoulders and ending at the rump. Pay attention to what you're doing and how you're doing it.
Take the time to pull out clumps of dog's hair and brush away dandruff; the act of grooming your dog should give you both a sense of satisfaction. Your pup enjoys the stimulating sensation of the comb moving against their skin, scratching a hard to reach itch. For you, it’s a job well done, and a productive way to enjoy your dog’s company.
Walking Your Dog
While you’re taking your pup for the usual daily jaunt, don't pay more attention to the phone in your hand than your dog. Give your electronics a rest and observe your Fido, loosen the tension in your arm and hand as you walk. Your dog should be secure, but make sure you aren’t passing the stress you feel throughout the day to the leash.
Take your mind off of work and responsibilities, and enjoy the surroundings, the neighborhood, the people, the scenery, the smells, and this small, uninterrupted bonding time with your pet – just like your dog does. This is something you should be doing anyway, mindfulness or not, as a way to keep both you and your pet safe.
Meals used to be a time when everyone sat down together, discussed how their day went, and savored the moment. In our modern age, everyone is in a hurry; we throw together whatever is convenient, toss it into the microwave, and get on with the day. In order to become more mindful, slow it down a little when dinner time comes around.
Dog trainers will tell you that your dog should always eat after you, and this is true in some ways. However, it’s more of a training technique, and it doesn’t mean that your pup can’t eat at the same time as you. If your dog gobbles up food in a hurry, get them a puzzle bowl that encourages slower, more mindful eating habits. It’s better for their digestion and prevents bloating.
Do Some Cardio
Going for a run with your dog on a trail or through your area is a great way to block out all the noise that the world pushes into your mind. When your body is working hard physically, your legs are burning and your lungs should be pumping as well. It’s awfully hard to think about anything besides you and your dog in a moment such as this. Your total focus should be on your pace, your form, controlling your breathing, and being a leader to your pup.
Physical fitness is a natural way to clear your head and develop a healthy way to increase serotonin and endorphin levels in your body. Some of these benefits apply to your pooch as well. This, coupled with the joy of having your dog with you on a run, make a great recipe for a happy, and mindful human being. Not to mention a very worn out and satisfied pup.
Teaching Your Dog New Tricks
One of the best and most efficient ways to become more mindful with your pet is to teach them something new. The practice keeps their brain sharp, and your own mind focused. No matter how old your dog is, they thrive on learning a trick or a command. Sit and stay are easy, but commands like roller over, sit pretty, and speak are far more challenging for you and your dog.
Keep in mind that training your dog isn’t meant to be a frustrating situation because you aren’t a drill sergeant and your dog isn’t a soldier. If they don’t get the command right the first few times, or don’t seem to get it all, that’s okay. The purpose of these exercises are simply to engulf yourself in the moment, and think about nothing else.
Dogs are able to pay attention to one task at at time for about 15 minutes before it’s time to move onto something else, according to dog trainers.
Dedicate At Least One Hour Per Day to Your Dog
These suggestions work quite well for anyone is serious about mindfulness, but you can’t rush through them if you want results. Even if you’re the owner of a million dollar business, you should make it a part of your schedule to give your dog at least an hour of your time every single day.
You don’t necessarily have to run 6 miles or go through a whole yoga and meditation session to be mindful. The important thing is that when you and your dog spend this hour together, you’re with them both physically and mentally. Put your phone on airplane mode, set up a timer, and don’t play with your electronics until the timer is finished.
They’ll Be Gone Before You Know It
Human beings outlive their dogs most of the time. We only get a decade or two to spend with our pets before they’re gone, and that’s not much when we’re living to be 75 years and older. If you can’t spend an hour with them each day, at least make the effort to do so 4 to 5 times a week. For the other 2 to 3 days, try to do at least one of the above suggested activities in between working and dealing with life.
The last thing you want is to look back on your dog’s life and wish you had done more with them, wish you've spent more time together. So be mindful, enjoy every moment, take advantage of today and do your best to live in the present, with your best friend.