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What Dogs Can Teach Us about Living in the Moment

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Sure, a dog might squirrel away a bone for a rainy day, but he’s mostly not thinking about the future. He might even forget about that bone. When he stumbles upon it next spring while rifling through the heather bushes, it’s a wonderful surprise — a new bone!

As humans, we think about the future often. We know our time on this earth is finite. We feel pressure from society or friends or even our own imagination to reach certain milestones with each passing year. Start a career, get married, buy a house, start a family, and so on. With each accomplishment we look for the next one. Never taking the time to appreciate our success.

We also fear change and worry we won’t recover if we make mistakes. Avoiding risks often leads to regret. We ruminate on the things we could or should have done.

Dogs don’t worry about any of these things and that’s a beautiful fact. They don’t care that another year has gone by and they still can’t afford that cashmere blanket they want. In fact, they don’t care about what’s in the bank at all.

They’re not thinking about the time they wiped out at the dog park and face planted in front of all the other dogs. They don’t remember all the things they broke, chewed on, etc. They’re not still upset about the last time you were sad or mad and didn’t want to pay attention to them.

They sleep on their back or curled up in your lap, and they’re as content as any person anywhere could ever be.

They focus on the essentials: eating, drinking, sleeping, and going to the bathroom. The only other thing that enters the picture is: having fun. Their lives are much shorter than ours, and yet they have a lot more fun than we do.

Meanwhile, we multitask, network, and cultivate a public or social media image. We climb the ladder and participate in what we ourselves termed “the rat race.” We focus on what could be, not what is, without wondering why. We fail to check in with ourselves and ask, “Is this who I am? Is this what I want?”

When you look at a dog’s face, whether he needs to go for a walk or he wants you to play fetch, he doesn’t know why you’re not springing into action. You need to finish writing this email? But you’ve been on that computer all day. You’re watching something on TV? But you can pause anything these days. You have to finish what you’re doing? But you could just take a break.

The dog has an excellent point. We don’t have a good excuse for why we go, go, go all the time. We don’t have an excuse for why we let stress or regret consume our lives. If we take a moment to unwind and be a buddy to a dog, everything else will still be waiting for us when we get back. When we give ourselves permission to just be, we can take our time and explore new things, like the dog who sniffs every tree and bush on the block.

When we can’t live in the moment we miss all the finer things that happen right under our noses. The peacefulness of a park bench on a quiet afternoon. Getting lost in a book. Appreciating laughter, togetherness, the sunset, a warm breeze, anything and everything that happens around us every day. The smell of the roses. Valuing your time over the pursuit of money is linked to greater happiness, according to research published this month in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Living in the present moment means letting go of the fear of what the future holds. It allows us to feel gratitude and cherish other people in our lives. It means fully appreciating our achievements and realizing that we are very rich in experience. If we lived in the present, we’d be as content as our canine companions.

Sleeping dog photo available from Shutterstock

What Dogs Can Teach Us about Living in the Moment


Sarah Newman, MA, MFA

Sarah Newman is the managing editor and associate publisher of PsychCentral and the founding editor-in-chief of the Poydras Review. She is also the cohost of the podcast Excuse Me, I Have Concerns where she discusses personal boundaries, personality and other psychology topics.


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APA Reference
Newman, S. (2018). What Dogs Can Teach Us about Living in the Moment. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 17, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-dogs-can-teach-us-about-living-in-the-moment/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.