If you’re a dog lover, you will love this post. I’ve been wanting to share things we’ve learned since having a dog for a while now. Abby is teaching us so much — something we never expected. She’s been a true blessing in our lives. I learn something new from/about her everyday. I hope you enjoy this post, where I share 4 important life lessons our dog Abby has taught us.
1. We Are Natural Intuitive Eaters
It may sounds like overkill coming from an Intuitive Eating Health Coach, but we feed Abby intuitively. Meaning, we keep food in her bowl throughout the day. We don’t have specific feeding times for her.
My goal is that she wouldn’t ever feel like there is a shortage of food. She gets to eat when she wants and how much she wants (I think it’s worth noting that she also only eats dog food — she has never had human food, other than peanut butter).
Her food bowl sits in her crate and when she’s hungry/thirsty, she’ll go in and get food/water. Otherwise, she’s outside playing with us and her toys. When I notice her bowl is super low or empty I’ll refill it.
This reminds me that we’re all natural born intuitive eaters. Our hunger signals get messed up when WE start screwing with them (whether through specific diets/restrictions or other forms of scarcity around food).
If we knew there would ALWAYS be food we’d eventually learn to take what we need and leave the rest. If something made us sick or not feel well, we’d avoid it the next time we saw it (especially when we have OTHER options).
2. Pleasure is Important
In her crate are also her toys. Her crate is cozy, fun and full of pleasure. We give her treats in her crate and keep it a happy/safe place.
A client recently sent me an article about addiction. Basically, the article talks about the experiment done YEARS ago with rats and cocaine/heroine.
Years ago, the experiment went like this: put a rat in a cage with two water bottles. One water bottle was just water. The other had cocaine or heroine. Almost every time they ran the experiment the rat would become obsessed with the drugged water bottle and would continue going back for it again and again until it DIED, showing us all how addicting cocaine is.
However, another experiment was done more recently. A rat was put in a cage where they’d built a rat park. The rat park cage contained the best toys on the market, awesome rat food, colored balls, tunnels to play in, and a ton of rat friends to socialize with… along with the two water bottles. One with regular water, and one that was drugged.
Here’s what they found:
“In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.
The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.”
How mind blowing is that!
What does this teach us about ourselves? I think it’s pretty obvious! Pleasure is important. If we feel that we’re “addicted to food” (or sugar) we should ask ourselves… Do we have enough pleasure and variety in our lives? If our life was a cage… How much pleasure is in our cage?
Or is it just us and food? If so, it makes A LOT of sense that we’d rely on food for pleasure. We need pleasure. We’re human!
There’s proof in this for Marco and I with Abby. Her crate is FULL of pleasures. If she’s hungry, she’ll eat. If she’s not, she’ll play with a toy. She has a variety of toys to play with, including a bone to naw on.
3. Love is Number One
Abby girl teaches us that our most important need, above anything else, is love.
We’re (Marco, Ab’s, myself) happiest when we’re cuddling in bed and she’s snoozing. When she lays on her back and has us rub her belly. When we get home and she wags her tail and booty like nobody’s business.
She reminds us how important love and connection are. They are number one. Whether it be from friends, family, or a romantic partner, we all need love (even self-love).
4. Consistency is Essential
In training Abby is teaching us how essential, useful, and helpful consistency is.
One of our top priorities with her is to set her up for success. If we need her to be calm (because she just had surgery) I’ll ask myself: How can I help her to be calm? If I want her to go to the door when she needs to potty, every time she walks to the door I need to be willing to stop what I’m doing and take her to the potty.
If I’m going to be busy working and am NOT able to watch her, I need to put her in her crate so she can rest and be contained. If I want her to be calm, I need to use a calming voice and touch. I need to show her what I want — not just say it with my words.
Imagine if I told her one day she could get on the bed and then the next she would be punished if she did (sad!). She would have no idea what is or isn’t okay. Consistency HELPS her to behave. It helps her to know what is okay and what isn’t. It helps her to know that she is safe.
This is just like us! We need to be consistent with others and ourselves as well. This helps us to feel safe. To know what to expect in a life that is FULL of the unexpected.
This doesn’t mean we can’t be flexible, it just means that for the most part, consistency helps us to feel good.
Do you have a dog? I would LOVE to know if you can relate to these lessons. If there are other things that your dog has taught you I would LOVE to hear what they are! Share with me in the comments!