As I sit here writing this article, Lola, my one year old working cocker spaniel is taking her first
nap of the day. I never thought I would be able to own my own dog, but having become a self employed personal trainer a couple of years, I was suddenly in control of my working hours and had the time to dedicate to a puppy. Lola has just turned one, and what a year it has been. She has tested my wife and I’s patience to the limit, and we have often wondered why we got a dog! But it is worth it a million times over. I have learnt more about dogs, myself and my relationship with my wife more over the past year than ever before. In fact, there is so much humans can learn from dogs to help us to live a healthier lifestyle.
1. Walks are non-negotiable
Depending on the breed, age and health of a dog, they will need a certain amount of exercise, every day. They are meant to move just like humans, perhaps a little more, but the point remains the same. Moving every day should be a non-negotiable act no matter how fit, old or busy you are. Making the time to allow your body the stretch and flex its muscles, increase the heart rate and even build up a sweat should be part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth.
2. Sleep is king
Sleep is where we rest, recover and process information and it is vitally important we get enough of it. The same can be said for dogs - puppies can sleep for up to 20 hours per days, and adult dogs up to 14 hours. However 36% of UK adults struggle to get to sleep which contributes to poor mental health, leaving them feeling stressed and anxious.
There are a number of things you can do to improve your sleep such as winding down an hour before you go to bed, removing screens and bright lights. A lot of people find reading or listening to audiobooks or soft sounds helps them switch off too. An app I find useful to measure my sleep is ‘SleepWatch’ which analyses your heart rate, breathing rate, restful time and much more. It then gives you recommendations as to how to improve your sleep.
3. Eat only what you NEED
Like humans, dogs can be greedy. Whether it is begging for food at the table or quickly darting to the fallen piece of food on the floor are just a couple of examples of how greedy some dogs can be. But as long as you are careful and don’t give in to ‘puppy-dog eyes’, the amount of food a dog should eat is very strict and usually measured out to the single gram. If dogs need to put on a bit of weight, just add a few grams and vice-versa. It’s really quite simple. So why do we as humans need to brand our diets, cut out food groups or only eat at certain times? Take a leaf from your dog’s book and just focus on the amount you eat and modify it if you aren’t the size you want to be.
4. Smile, speak and be HUMAN
Us Brits are sometimes pretty miserable. Just take a journey on the underground in London and you know what I mean! If someone cracks a smile, or dares to speak to you must mean they are mad right? As the Joker famously said “why so serious?” Relationships are something we have missed over the past couple of years and we crave them as human beings. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you like their shoes, ask for directions or the time. Dogs don’t care and will ‘speak’ to most people. Lola genuinely thinks everyone she meets on a walk is just there to see her! So smile, speak and be friendly!
There are real health benefits behind smiling too. The hormones released by your brain when you smile can make you happier, reduce your levels of stress and even boost your immune system.
As we grow older, we forget to play and have fun as we once did. We focus too much on work and other commitments and don’t enjoy the little moments. Dogs are the opposite, especially spaniels! Play is what they live for. It bonds them with their owners and other dogs. I dare you to watch two dogs playing together and try not to smile, it’s infectious! Ball games, tug of war and find the sock are a few of Lola’s favourites.
If you are lucky enough to have a dog, you will understand what I mean when I say that dogs are the best parts of humans, so try and find your inner dog and be more like them!
As always, feel free to email me if you need help on anything health and fitness related on firstname.lastname@example.org. I haven't quite cracked the ‘dog trainer’ just yet, but it is a working process!