5 life lessons my dogs taught me over the years

Impawtant Dog Lessons My Pups Missy & Buzz Taught Me

There’s been a good amount of change in my life recently.

Missy made her journey to the rainbow bridge 6 weeks ago.

Her brother Buzz moved in with his Daddy after our separation.

And I suddenly find myself dog-less in a big house.

Disclaimer: This blog post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated in 2023. It contains affiliate links I may earn compensation through at no additional cost to you. 

My first impulse was to feel sorry for myself and boost the sale of tissue boxes.

A few days into this reactive mode, I realized that neither of the pups would have wanted to see me this way.

So I decided to wear my big girl pants again.

I’ve managed to control my urge to cry non-stop, at least for the most part – I still cave every now & then.

Instead, I started reflecting on the joy & happiness the pups brought me, along with the many life lessons we learned together.

Impawtant Dog Lessons My Pups Missy & Buzz Taught Me

5 life lessons my dogs taught me over the years

Dog Lessons – # 1: Patience

Boy oh boy!

Have the pups contributed to the increase in my level of patience, especially when they were just tiny puppies.

Now, I’ve never been the most patient person.

As a matter of fact, I’m fairly sure that I’ll never loose my tendency of being impatient 100%.

But, I have made a ton of progress over the course of these last 7 years of puppyhood!

I can’t think of one particular trigger, so it’s not like a specific event made me more mellow.

Instead, it was the repetitive nature of training & raising the pups that really forced me to take a step back and RELAX.

Granted, the ridiculously cute puppy faces helped a lot, too!

My Boxer mix puppies Missy & Buzz
How cute are the puppies?!

I never had any dogs before Missy & Buzz came into my life, and so I read a ton of books on dog behavior and training before they moved in.

I was secretly hoping to come across a super actionable piece of advice that would tell me how to potty & leash train the little ones in a matter of just a few days, or maybe weeks.

Guess what – that didn’t and still doesn’t exist.

If you’re serious about raising a well mannered, confident pup, it’ll take time, consistency, and a lot of energy on your part.

So you’ll make it a lot easier on yourself if you take a deep breath and enjoy the small steps into the right direction.

That being said, it only took about 2-3 months until the pups were reliably potty trained.

If you’re wondering how I managed that one, check out my blog post How To Combine House-And Crate Training Your Puppy.

Polite leash manners took a little longer, and I ended up using a head collar to help me with that task.

Missy & Buzz Walking On Their Head Collar By Halti
A head collar helps work on polite leash manners and can be used to gently redirect your dog’s attention.

There are a few different brands available, and I started with the Gentle Leader, but ended up liking the Halti Head Collar better because of its padded nose band.

The Halti in combination with several daily walks did wonders for teaching the puppies that pulling on leash is a big NoNo.

Since the Halti is a bit hard to see on the pups’ black faces, I’m including a picture of my dog Wally wearing it on an urban art park adventure:

Feist mix Wally with a Halti head collar for dogs

Polite behavior around food was something the pups picked up very quickly and was a big part of our daily routine.

I always exercised them before breakfast and dinner, so they were already in a relaxed state of mind and didn’t have any pent-up energy.

I’d wait for them to lie down on their own, then added the “stay” command and calmly prepared their meals.

That’s all it took to emphasize calm behavior around food.

Missy & Buzz With Their Raw Dog Food
Missy & Buzz with their raw dog food

Teaching certain tricks took considerably longer.

Especially the roll over trick.

Buzz had it down after a few weeks, but Missy only got it after – gasp – one year!

I was almost ready to give up and accept the fact that she just wouldn’t do that one, when she eventually DID roll over.

Here’s how I taught it:

How I Taught Missy The Rollover Trick

How I Taught My Dog The Rollover Command - Step 2

Dog Lessons – # 2: Using Socialization To Turn Into An Introverted Extrovert

One thing I learned very quickly once Missy & Buzz moved in with me at 8 weeks of age is that everyone goes crazy over puppies.

It was impossible to walk the grounds of the apartment complex we used to live at and not have people coming over (some running!) to get their puppy fix.

Since I’ve always been more of an introvert, this type of behavior was something I had to get used to.

I will say though that it was a great way of checking people with different ethnic backgrounds and age groups off my puppy socialization list.

It’s also how I met Erica, one of my neighbors and the owner of a pet sitting & dog walking business.

My friend Erica got me started in my career in the pet service industry
Me on the left, Erica on the right

She liked how involved I was with raising the pups and offered me a job in her business that I ended up taking.

That’s how I got started in my career in the pet service industry.

To this day, Erica remains a dear friend. It also helped me come out of my shell more and turned me into an introverted extrovert!

After all, I also found out that I loved talking about the pups. Even to people who were from completely different walks of life than I was.

And, let’s be honest, whom I probably wouldn’t have had a conversation with under “normal”, non-puppy related, circumstances.

Puppies truly are the best icebreakers!

Dog Lessons – # 3: Enjoying The Moment

One fact we can probably all agree on is that our dogs don’t live long enough, right?

So I strongly suggest we enjoy each and every moment we have with them!

Even the ones where they end up rolling in a mud puddle and leaving paw prints on your carpet and rugs.

Yes, I’m talking about you, Buzz boy!

This happened when Buzz and I played ball in the pouring rain and he ended up being covered in mud from head to toes.

Too bad I don’t have any photos of that scenario!!

But here’s one of him with his favorite chuck it ball:

Buzz with his favorite chuck it ball

I somehow managed to pick him up and carry him to the spare bathroom to hose him off. He weighs 75 lbs after all!

He actually didn’t end up leaving muddy prints on the carpet. But there was a good amount of dirt that dripped off of him.

I actually shrugged it off although I’m a neat freak and just enjoyed the fact that he had a blast outside!

I think every now and then we need to let our dogs just be dogs. Even if that means they’ll be gross and dirty and yucky.

Dog Lessons – # 4: Healthier Lifestyle

You may already know that Missy’s first cancer diagnosis in 2014 caused me to re-evaluate our lifestyle choices.

I also incorporated several changes for a healthier lifestyle:

  • Tossed the pups’ highly processed kibble and introduced fresh, raw dog food.
  • Stopped using harsh topical pest preventatives on the pups and started using gentle, non-chemical alternatives instead. For example, the Wondercide Flea & Tick spray.
  • Drastically reduced the vaccines the pups got.
  • Started using cleaning products around the house that don’t contain harmful chemicals and that are gentle on the environment. For example, Mrs Meyer’s Multi Surface Cleaner.

(Not so) Fun Fact: Did you know that dryer sheets are loaded with chemicals?? Once I found out, I completely stopped using them and guess what, I don’t miss them one bit.

Dog Lessons – # 5: Don’t Believe Everything You’re Told – Challenge The Status Quo

This lesson builds on the healthier lifestyle lesson.

It wasn’t until Missy was diagnosed with cancer that I began to question our traditional vet’s health care protocol for the pups.

Keep in mind that Missy was only 3 years and 3 months “old” when she was diagnosed!!

That’s insane, right?

Thank goodness that I was left completely dumbfounded because it got me to do some digging and challenge the doggie status quo. 

I ended up realizing that the pet health care industry in this part of the world is largely geared towards treating illness, instead of preventing it in the first place.

Actually much like our human health care industry – simply because there’s more money to be made with this model.

It’s so much more convenient to just pop pills that cover symptoms than to treat the root of a health problem, right?

Ugh. This approach infuriates me.

Thankfully, I started learning about holistic and homeopathic veterinarians who take proactive approaches to boosting our pets’ immune systems.

They do this by:

They understand that food is medicine and that we are what we eat, humans and animals alike.

They’ve been able to observe this in their own pets and their countless furry patients over the course of decades.

On that note, I started following the works of holistic veterinarians such as Dr. Karen Becker, Dr. Dee Blanco, and Dr. Ian Billinghurst.

Book Review Of The Raw Feeding Bible - Give Your Dog A Bone by Dr. Ian Billinghurst

I was lucky enough to meet Dr. Charles Loops in person. That’s when I took Missy to see him after her second cancer diagnosis earlier this year (2018).

You can read a little more about him in my blog post Dog Cancer Supplements Suggested By Our Homeopathic Veterinarian Dr. Loops.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the many lifestyle changes I implemented after Missy’s first cancer diagnosis contributed to her remission from cancer for 3 years.

Unfortunately, cancer took her from me after all, but at least I had another 3 years with my little girl.

Her brother Buzz continues to thrive on the raw diet.

Impawtant Dog Lessons My Pups Missy & Buzz Taught Me: Bottom Line

I’m immensely thankful for all these lessons the pups taught me over the years.

I’ll incorporate them with future furries that will join my life, particularly the healthier lifestyle and challenging of the status quo. 

Now, I’m still struggling to process all the change I’ve been faced with. But I realize that it’s necessary for personal growth.

So I really don’t have a choice other than come out even stronger than I was before my loss.

Have your dogs taught you a lesson or two? As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below this blog post!

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Barbara launched her blog K9sOverCoffee in 2014 and has been feeding her dogs raw dog food since 2015. As a former professional dog walker, she’s passionate about balancing species-appropriate exercise with healthy dog nutrition. Barbara is raw dog food nutrition certified from “Dogs Naturally Magazine” and the author of several e-books about minimally processed, balanced raw dog food.


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