How to be as happy as your dog

They may not know what mindfulness means and don’t care how you pronounce hygge, but they certainly know how to embrace life. Don’t be fooled by that docile expression, says Celia Haddon – there’s an awful lot our dogs can teach us.

How to be as happy as your dog
Photo by Tim Flach

DOGS KNOW WHAT REALLY MATTERS

In their world, loving and being loved come first. Dogs love their human family and doggy friends spontaneously and happily. That should be what matters to us.

THEY NEVER STOP THINKING THAT LIFE HAS TREATS IN STORE

Even if it’s not dinner time, they never lose hope that you might, just might, give them something from the food cupboard. An optimistic attitude makes the world seem a happier place to live in.

DOGS MOVE ON

They don’t rail at fate, simmer with resentments or moan that life is unfair. Accepting your life as it is gives you time and energy to enjoy what can be enjoyed.

IT’S ALL ABOUT SIMPLE PLEASURES TO THEM

Whether it’s crumbs on the kitchen floor, rabbit holes, sticks or simply being near you, the little things can bring big rewards. Look for small pleasures and don’t be too critical. You will enjoy life more.

DOGS DON’T MULTITASK

They like walks, strokes, interesting smells and chasing balls – one at a time. They don’t waste energy complicating life with over-thinking or doing too many things at once – and are all the better for it.

LEAVING THEIR MARK ON THE WORLD IS IMPORTANT

But it’s usually on lampposts. Obviously, that’s not the way we should do it. Instead we can volunteer, take part in local activities, raise money for good causes and be a good friend.

THEY DON’T HAVE TO BE TOP DOG

Our dogs will happily follow us when we lead, and don’t mind taking orders. And if ours is top dog among others, he leads without domineering or bullying. We can have a happy life without fighting to come out on top.

DOGS BREATHE IT ALL IN

They stop and sniff whenever there is a scent that interests them. They see life through their nose. We should not ignore the joy of scents that please us. Pay attention to the smell of flowers, newly mown grass, evergreen trees, good food and freshly washed laundry. Add these small joyful experiences to your life.

WHEN THEY WANT AFFECTION THEY ASK – AND ARE HAPPY TO SHOW IT

A dog will lean against you, nudge you, lick your hand, bring you a toy or put a paw on your lap. There is no shame in asking for affection. A dog shows you how special you are to him. Do the same to others. Send a card. Give thoughtful gifts, offers of help or make time to listen.

THEY KNOW HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS (BUT DON’T COPY ALL THEIR MOVES)

Watch a dog making friends with other dogs. There’s the run towards, pause, circle and bottom sniff. Bottom sniffing is definitely not a good start to human friendship, but a cheerful handshake and a smile will work well. Enhance your life by being friendly to people you meet during the day, such as the shopkeeper or the receptionist.

RELAXING IS A PRIORITY

Dogs laze around or sleep when there’s not much to do. Don’t feel you have to fill up all your time with busyness. Taking it easy or having a power nap is not a waste of time – it’s good for you.

FOOD IS THEIR FRIEND

Enjoying what you eat is good for the digestion and good for your mood. It is part of a happy life.

DOGS LIKE HANGING OUT WITH YOU

They’re happy to watch TV, go for a jog, sit in the car… They’re never far away. Equally, your time is the most precious thing you can give to your family and friends. Just hanging out with them shows that you love them.

WHEREVER YOU ARE, THEY FEEL AT HOME

Our dogs would be happy in a bedsit or a mansion, as long as we’re there. Being with loved ones is what makes a happy home. You don’t need five bedrooms for happiness. You only need a place for people and your dog.

THEY’RE GOOD LISTENERS…

They pay attention to us when we talk to them. We can tell them anything and they’re never judgmental.

…AND THEY DON’T RESENT SUCCESS

Don’t let envy spoil your happiness for others. Dogs share in our happiness without feeling envious. They sense people’s good moods and respond with their own.

DOGS LIKE TO EXERCISE EVERY DAY

Even when they are old and arthritic, they will appreciate a walk in the park. And they always remember to stretch once or twice when they leave their bed. Choose exercise that’s a pleasure not a chore, then you will do more of it.

YOU CAN BE THE PERSON YOUR DOG THINKS YOU ARE

Dogs look up to us, enjoy our company, forgive our blunders and love us dearly. They think we’re wonderful. So be wonderful.

This is an edited extract from 100 Ways to be as Happy as Your Dog: Canine Lessons for a Good Life by Celia Haddon, to be published by Yellow Kite on Thursday, price £9.99.