You want to be a better man? Get a dog. Raise it from a pup and let it become your best buddy, your alter-ego and your shadow. The experience will inevitably teach you way more than you’d ever expect to learn from a pet. Responsibility, patience and loyalty? They just come with the territory. That’s because you form a genuine bond with this animal. Your ability to interpret feelings expands. Your dog knows when you’re happy. Or when you’re sad. To your dog, you are the whole world. I once heard someone joke, “I want to be the person my dog thinks I am,” but immediately knew it to be a true statement. That’s because dogs must be the only living creatures that love you more than they love themselves. And that’s just the beginning. Want to know how a dog makes you a better man? Here are four simple ways.
You learn patience
Dogs are great, no doubt. But they’re animals. Domesticated, sure, but still completely unaware that they shouldn’t stretch out wherever they’d like and chew on whatever feels good against their teeth. That is, until you train them. The difference between a good dog and one that acts like an asshole comes down almost entirely to training. You’ll have to put in the time and effort to train your dog on the rules of the house and your expectations as a pet owner. You also have to love and care for the thing even when it’s misbehaved or has diarrhea. Which leads us to …
Responsibility and routine build character
Check your squeamishness at the door when you bring a dog into your home. Because even the healthiest of pups will introduce all sorts of vomit, drool, fur and urine (to say nothing of feces and anal glands) to your interiors. But it’s your dog and remarkably, after you fall in love with it, that somehow equips you to tackle anything it puts you through. Like having to get up early because that’s when your dog just naturally rises to relieve itself. Or requiring you to be home at a decent enough hour to provide dinner and go for a walk. Sorry to say it, but your days as a bachelor—leaving work on Friday for a few drinks, which turns into too many so you end up crashing over at someone’s house and sleeping in—are done. You’ve got to get home to feed and walk the pup. But the sacrifice is worth it, because …
They inherently make you healthier
Dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression than non-pet owners. Just the act of petting a dog lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. Men with dogs have been found to sleep better at night and are sick less often. Plus, you certainly have more reasons to get outside and be active. You may not always take your dog for a long walk around town, but even just chasing it around the house or taking it in and out to use the bathroom ensures that you’re not simply crashing on the couch for hours on end. Which is why most dog owners get the recommended minimum 30 minutes of exercise a day—lowering their risk of cardiovascular disease and keeping them in better overall shape than cat owners or people without pets. And you’ll be even better off if you let …
Their perspective and loyalty rub off on you
Have you ever noticed how dogs stay present in the moment? They live like people who aren’t worried about the future or concerned about what other people think. A dog’s idea of sweating the small stuff is scratching its ear when it itches. They experience things. They wring as much enjoyment out of an experience as they can. They also get through the bad parts of life and move on as quickly as possible. If only humans were as naturally present, open and agreeable. You know what your dog wants to do today? Wake up, greet you, eat, play with some toys, nap, greet you, eat, nap again, eat again, play again, greet you again and then turn in for the night. We should all be so content, carefree and completely sure of ourselves. Of course, we can’t live like that but you can sit back and appreciate it. And reciprocate when available. For instance, your dog’s happy just sitting at your feet, looking up at you. And the mere act of looking back at your dog increases the levels of Oxytocin (that “feel good” chemical) in your brain. So sit back, stare into those big brown eyes and enjoy the spoils of your best friend.