This week I was fortunate enough to team up with Purina and Barkley the Morkie (Yes, she officially has an Instagram account. If you like cute and sassy, you'll enjoy it!) to celebrate the first annual Beverly Hills Dog Show. Bark and I might not live in Beverly Hills (yet!), but we're thrilled to be part of such an awesome event, raising money for a good cause: Leader Dogs for the Blind — a global organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Learn more about the dog show and the campaign at the end of this post.
If you're new here, you might not know that I love dogs. Like, a lot. Like, so much that when I was a little kid I told my parents that my dream was to marry a dog. (A fact my dad likes to joke about, telling me that I have, in a way, achieved my dream through my single, ultimate-dog-mom status. Thanks, Dad.🙄 ) This isn't the first (or last!) time I've written about the wonderful lessons I've learned from the four-legged friends in my life, but I'm always learning new things about the positive power of pups. Keep reading for my latest thoughts on the positive power of pups! (Note: I'm pretty sure most of these apply to cats and other pets as well, so don't be deterred if you're not a dog lover!)
DOGS CAN MAKE YOU HEALTHIER.
Not only have dog owners been shown in studies to have lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and fewer heart attacks, but dogs have the power to help with health in other ways as well. Of course, one of the great things about having Barkley in my life is that she inspires (requires...) that I get up off the couch multiple times a day to walk her. Without her, I honestly don't know how often I would go outside and just walk around. She, quite literally, gets me up and moving.
Not only does she get me walking, but she also inspires me to do yoga every day. Whenever I break out the yoga mat, she gets really excited because to her the word "yoga" equals "let's play ball." While playing ball during yoga doesn't always make for the most relaxing practice, it is incredibly helpful to have a little creature who becomes visibly excited by the word "yoga." I might be thinking aloud, "Hmmm, should I do yoga?" and there she is, ball in mouth, wagging her tail as if to say, "Yes! Do it!"
Also, in the health department, I've recently realized that she makes me more aware of what I'm eating (and more likely to make healthier eating choices!). Because I generally share a bite of whatever I'm munching on with her (terrible practice, I know, but don't judge me), every time I'm eating, I'm made more aware of whether what I'm eating is healthy or not. I only give her dog-friendly, healthy food so if I'm eating a lot of things that I can't give her, I'm eating a lot of things I probably shouldn't be giving myself. Maybe that'll be a weird health food trend someday: Could My Dog Eat This? 😂 While I don't always alter what I'm eating as a result of her presence, it does make me much more mindful of the healthful nature of what I'm consuming.
DOGS CAN HELP WITH ANXIETY.
If you have anxiety and a pet, you already know how much they can help keep you calm when you're struggling. Of course, she's one of many tools in my anxiety-fighting toolbox, but she (and all the dogs I've had before) is one of the most essential. I've found that dogs provide a unique comfort that an anxious person can never fully get with another person. No matter how much someone loves or cares about you and no matter how well they are at coping with another's anxiety, if you are anxious, it's difficult to find the level of comfort from a person that you get from a dog. I think this might have something to do with the fact that a dog's intentions are almost always pure and non-judgmental, and, even if you know deep down that another person is not judging you and only wants the best for you, there's still a humanness to them that can sometimes stand in the way of true comfort.
When interacting with other people, you, in some ways, need to keep that person in mind. You might be focused intently on your own situation, but when there's another person present, you can't help but consider them in your interactions. With dogs, it's different. Of course, you know they're there and have to consider their presence, but it's in a different, less intense way, and it gives you the freedom to focus on comfort in a way that you might not be able to with another human. (Or maybe I just haven't found the right human for this yet!)
DOGS CAN INCREASE POSITIVITY.
If you're a dog lover or a pet lover, you know how much just the presence of your pet can lift you up when you're feeling down. Even if you've had absolute worst day in the world, when you see your dog, your heart feels a bit lighter, the world a teeny tiny bit brighter. This means that, even amidst the absolute worst case scenario, there's going to be a little bit of something good in your day, however fleeting. And I've found that good things build on each other. If you see good things, it makes you a little more likely to look for good things.
So, starting out your day with something good -- say, a cute pup face ready for you to wake up -- might make it more likely that you'll seek out more positive things throughout your day. (I don't know if this is something everyone experiences or just me, but it seems to be true in my life!) I'm sure this idea -- that if you have at least one positive thing in your day, you'll be more likely to seek out other positive things -- can certainly apply to other things, not just pups, but I know for a fact that this works for me. The more positive interacts I have with Bark, the more likely I am to be an optimistic mood.
DOGS CAN INSPIRE MINDFULNESS.
I've written about this before, but it's something I'm constantly noticing in my everyday life. Being around a pup makes me more mindful. They are, by nature, curious creatures. Bark is always noticing things that are new (a gum wrapper dropped on the sidewalk, a small flower poking out of the dirt, etc.), and it helps me notice them too. When I take her out for walks, I try not to bring my phone, so I can be attentive to what she's looking at and listening to (she has the most expressive ears!). It's been fascinating to take note, over the years, of how much more mindful dogs can make us.
On a daily basis, Bark points out things I never would have noticed (mostly because she reminds me to take a break from my phone and pay attention to the real world). Sometimes they aren't that exciting (like a piece of trash), but sometimes they are awesome (like a bright blue butterfly she once spotted that I would have otherwise walked right past!). And, regardless of what they are, the very act of paying more attention to the world is a kind of gift, and one that I'm lucky enough to receive every time I take mindfulness tips from my pup!
These are just a few of the many, many ways dogs can make our lives better. I'd love to know how your dog (or pet!) has helped you live a more positively present life! Share your experiences in the comments below or reach out on social media. (Bonus points if you share a pic of your pet!)
Thank you so much to Purina for sponsoring this post! This month, Purina is showcasing the four-legged stars in our lives. In advance of the Beverly Hills Dog Show Presented by Purina, Purina is inviting pet owners across the nation to share why their pets are the stars of their families. Want to join in the fun? Post a picture showing how your pet is the star of your family using the hashtag #BHDogShow and tagging @Purina. For every original post submitted from April 10 – April 23 that includes @Purina and #BHDogShow, Purina will donate one dollar (up to $25,000) to the Leader Dogs for the Blind — a global organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. How awesome is that?! Also, be sure to check out the first annual Beverly Hills Dog Show Presented by Purina will premiere on April 16 on USA at 8/7 p.m. ET/CT and again on NBC on April 23 at 1 PM/12c. And see more pics of Bark on the red carpet on Instagram!