“It’s a huge responsibility,” she exclaimed. “Who’s going to walk it every day?”
“I will! I promise,” I begged.
“You will—until you have something better to do. And then who’s going to be left with it? Me. No, no. You can have a dog when you live by yourself,” she said, shaking her head.
So, I lived my entire life without a dog…until a few months ago.
My partner and I finally went to the shelter and adopted a gorgeous doggo.
Here’s the first thing I’ll say: My mom was totally right.
It is a lot of responsibility. Even my partner, who had dogs as a child, realized just how much work his family must have put in to raise a well-trained, well-behaved pet.
I had to adjust to a new life almost overnight
I went from being able to do anything I wanted any time I wanted, to having to be home at a certain time to take the dog out. Now I have to plan ahead before going on a weekend trip or a day out. I have to train her to be calm outside because she had a pretty rough life before we adopted her. And my YouTube and TikTok feeds quickly went from being about workouts and travel to being 100% about dog training 🐕
The incredible thing about it, though, is that it’s been such a profound learning experience.
Rather than learning to look after a dog, I feel like having a rescue pup has taught me so much more about being an adult. It’s changed how I look at and respond to the world around me.
In a mere two months, here are eight invaluable life skills my rescue dog has taught me (that we can all learn from).
1. Next-level responsibility
Evidently, my mom knew best because it seems like I didn’t REALLY understand the meaning of responsibility until I had a dog.
Sure, I was a (semi) responsible adult. I cleaned, folded my own laundry, cooked my own meals, paid rent and bills, and looked after my car. But I didn’t understand what it meant to have another living, breathing being who was fully dependent on me for absolutely everything.
I can’t stay out as long as I want because I know there’s a dog waiting at home. When I budget, I have to account for my needs and hers. No matter what happens every day, I have to take her out for walks and ensure that she’s looked after.
It sounds brutal, but it’s actually been a joy because with that next level of responsibility comes a new level of love and accomplishment that I haven’t found anywhere else.
More importantly, it’s made me realize that responsibility isn’t a bad thing. It’s more pressure, sure—but with that pressure comes an immense reward that I never would have known had I not gotten a rescue. And if you embrace having that responsibility and take it seriously, it almost always pays off.
2. Learning to accept others
Before we got a dog, I was always told never to get a rescue as my first dog. Friends warned me about the trauma that rescue dogs carry and how this manifests itself in different ways.
“Get a puppy! You can train it exactly the way you want,” I heard time and time again.
Clearly, I didn’t listen to them and got a rescue—but they were right.
The pups in shelters often come with baggage, like being fearful of certain things or reactive toward others. My dog has anxiety, and it’s been challenging to overcome that. It’s something we work on every single day, trying to modify her reactions and behaviors to the things that trigger her.
I won’t lie to you. In the beginning, I thought it was too hard. Over time, however, my perspective changed because I realized one simple thing…
Dog or human, we all come with baggage.
All of us have our issues, big or small. Nobody’s perfect, but it’s about accepting someone for who they are and loving them anyway.
Interestingly, this has helped me look at people differently as well. I’m getting better at understanding others and learning not to judge behaviors because you never know what’s happened in their past.
3. Consistency over perfection
Speaking of modifying behaviors…one of the biggest parts of having a rescue is training her and building her confidence in the world around her. My dog wasn’t trained or socialized at all as a puppy, so she had to learn everything from scratch (including how to go in an elevator or behave around other dogs).
Turns out that changing behavior doesn’t happen overnight.
It’s taken months for her to look at another dog calmly or walk on the leash without trying to rip my arm out. What’s more, this progress has only been possible due to constant practice, day in and day out.
When she has a bad day, I feel frustrated. It feels like we’re going nowhere and taking one step forward, followed by 20 steps back. Yet gradually, I’ve seen improvement happen—little by little, week by week. Now when I think back to how she was when we first adopted her, I recognize just how far she’s come.
This happens to us with a lot of things, not just dog training. We get frustrated when we don’t pick things up straight away or feel like we’re not making progress toward our goals, even though we are.
The lesson here? It’s about looking at the sum of all parts and tracking trends over time. As long as we’re consistent and work hard every day, progress does happen (although it’s hard to see it when we’re in the thick of it).
4. A heck of a lot of patience
Confession: I am not a patient person.
I like to do things quickly and efficiently…but that’s not how you train a dog.
You have to repeat things over and over, wait for them to respond, and demonstrate understanding even when they get things wrong.
This was incredibly tough at first. I would come home from our walks in a big huff because it didn’t go how I wanted or she didn’t listen to me. Gradually, however, I’ve learned to slow down and respond with kindness rather than frustration.
Unsurprisingly, this has transferred to other parts of life as well. With coworkers or friends, I try to be patient and approach every situation from a place of understanding instead of simply reacting or getting frustrated. When you stop, breathe, and try to empathize with other people, you’ll find it easier to get things done well.
5. Passing on kindness to others
If you live in a city, you probably recognize this scene:
Whether in the elevator or on the street, most of us go out of our way to avoid speaking to, or even acknowledging, people we don’t know in public. I was one of those people, too, until I got my dog.
From then on, I couldn’t get in the elevator or go outside without someone commenting on her. I saw other dog owners and spoke to them while our dogs played together. It was like being let into a new club, where people were friendly, and we always had something to talk about.
Weirdly enough, I now find myself engaging in conversation with people I encounter, even when I’m not with my dog. This newfound communication with others reminded me that we’re all human and that it doesn’t hurt to smile and greet others outside, if for no other reason than to wish them a good day 🌞
6. Stop and smell the roses
Have you ever been so caught up in your own things that you forget to breathe? Maybe it’s a college assignment or chasing that big promotion. Whatever it is, plenty of us are guilty of going a million miles an hour without ever putting on the brakes.
Dogs are the exact opposite.
It’s no secret that dogs love to stop and observe the world around them. Even the most mundane things can be exciting: a ball being thrown across the field, a really appealing stick, or even the smell of grass after it rains.
Whenever I take my dog for a walk, it’s a reminder to pause and appreciate the things around me. It’s a constant reminder to look up from my phone and take in the world as it goes by. Sometimes, I don’t even take my phone with me. We just walk around and frolic in the gardens, Julie Andrews style.
7. Positivity, above all else
Dogs are gigantic rays of sunshine. They’re so happy and grateful for the simple things in life, like eating the same food every single day or going outside. When you’re around something that’s SO happy, it’s hard not to let that rub off on you, even if it’s just a little bit.
As we get older, many of us get a bit more jaded and pessimistic about life. However, having a dog is a daily reminder that there are a lot of good things out there to be thankful for.
Even if you don’t have a dog, simply looking at the world through a dog’s lens can transform it into an awesome place. The next time you have a tough day, head to your local park and see some dogs running around. I guarantee you’ll smile and remember just how amazing it is to be alive.
8. Planning ahead (like WAY ahead)
Being spontaneous is fun. It can also get you in a lot of trouble if you forget that you have other commitments or leave tasks up to the last minute. Unfortunately, that’s not possible when you have another living thing who’s dependent on you.
I’ve always been a good forward planner with studying or work tasks but never so much with my personal life.
With a dog, that’s no longer the case.
Food, water, entertainment—all of this needs to be accounted for every day, which means that life takes some more planning than it used to.
This could be a pain, but I’ve found it’s actually the opposite. It means I have to be more deliberate and considerate with what I do, who I see, and how I structure my day. It’s given some much-needed routine to my life and helped me be better at planning work projects and my social life.
And last but not least…
Having a rescue dog has taught me that I can do much more than I gave myself credit for. If you had told me all of this stuff above ☝️, I would have told you that it’s absolutely not for me. And yet, I can’t imagine my life any other way now.