There’s a very good reason why dogs are known as man’s best friend. Taking on the responsibility of owning a dog is a big step that not only gets you a great companion but also helps make you a better guy, a “top dog” as it were!
It’s not about the size or the breed of the dog in the house, it’s all about the of the responsibility that falls on the dog owner. Co-existing with dogs requires more sacrifice, patience, and maturity than you can imagine. So here are my thoughts on why a dog can ultimately make the man.
Are You Squeamish? You Won’t Be For Long!
As a dog owner, you just got yourself an ongoing source of excrement, vomit, drool, hair, bugs, urine, and sometimes even blood. If finding a steaming pile of puppy poop in your walk-in closet sets off a gag reflex, then you are seriously going to have to man up! Luckily, as a dog owner, you don’t have a choice. Grab some paper towels, roll up the sleeves, and get down to business cleaning up the business.
Routine, Routine, Routine
On any given Friday, it’s a bachelor’s prerogative to wake up at 8:45 am, punch in at 9:01 am, punch out at 4:59 am, and have the first shot down by 5:17 pm. Then, roll back in at two. or three. or four in the morning, crash on the couch, and sleep like a hungover dead man until 5 pm. Try that with a pooch in the house and you’re going to have some serious urine stains to deal with. Owning a dog isn’t quite the same as basing your entire schedule around your kid’s soccer/baseball/homework routine. But it does mean that you’re going to have to drag your ass out of bed ten minutes early to stand out in the rain with furry Fido while he finds the perfect spot to mark his territory every morning. And you’ll have to do it again, at least two more times a day, before you pass out at night. Don’t worry, though. Sucking it up and being responsible when you least want to is worth it. It’s called building character.
Letting Go of Selfishness
Owning a dog introduces a concept that few single guys have yet to tackle in a real world situation – selflessness. Even when you shared a roof with roommates or frat brothers, everyone was pretty self-sufficient. Your laziness, tardiness, or sloppiness didn’t really hurt anyone but yourself. But with a dog, it’s different. Now, you have to think about his comfort, his empty belly, and his insatiable need to go out and chase cats around the block at least once a day. Dog ownership is one of your first opportunities to care about someone other than yourself.
The Virtues of Patience
Don’t let the stereotypes fool you, dogs are incredibly smart. They can read emotions, learn rules, and even skirt around your authority in surprisingly smart ways. But the one thing that they can’t do is read your mind. So, in order to teach them right from wrong and good from bad, you’ll have to be consistent in your praise and punishment. Getting dogs up to speed on “sit,” “stay,” “roll over”, and “get your ass off the bed” takes everyday patience with no vacations.
Asking for Favors
Unless you’ve decided to be a hermit, there are going to be times when you can’t take care of your dog’s needs. Vacations, business trips, retreats, traffic jams whatever it is that keeps you away from your dog, you’re going to need a backup system. Thus, the social requirements of owning a dog. In order to do it right, you’ve got to know someone who (A) you can trust and (B) likes you enough to pick up your dog’s crap (literally and figuratively) while you’re out of town. That can be tough. If you’re thinking about getting a dog, then maybe now is a good time to introduce yourself to your neighbors. It’s not going to work out well if you show up the day before your departing flight and say, “Hi, I’m Bob, we’ve never met but I’ve been living next door for eight years. I have very lovable pit bull named Killer. Would you mind walking him twice a day for the next week?” Alternatively, be prepared to fork over obscene amounts for boarding. Which, by the way, is not something that we would ever think of doing or recommending.
So, your gracious neighbor actually agreed to watch your dog for a weekend (not that neighbor, the one on the other side of you). But while you were away, Killer got major separation anxiety and decided to separate the stuffing from the $5,000 Italian leather couch in your neighbor’s man cave. Dumb dog, right? Dumb neighbor too, for spending that much on a couch and then leaving an animal in there alone, but I digress. Anyway, guess what? It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. Because it’s your dog. You can argue and rationalize all you want, but in the end, the right thing to do is take responsibility for your dog’s actions. It’ll be tough, but it’s your duty as man of the house.
Standing By Your Man (or, in this case, your “man’s best friend”)
Owning a dog isn’t like picking up a DVD. In fact, it’s not even like buying a DVD or even an entire DVD library complete with a new DVD player. If it’s defective, if you don’t like it, or you find out you can’t actually afford it, you can’t just “take it back.” The dog is yours! For better or worse, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer. Of course, you could break down and take it back to the shelter but, NO self respecting man would ever be that lame! That means you’re going to have to learn to love and care for your new best friend even if he’s a total jerk. When he chews up your autographed baseball collection, when he humps your date’s leg, when he gets that pus-filled sore on his belly that smells like a football locker room, he’s still all yours, forever and always. That’s fidelity, man. And if you’re faithful to him, he’ll return the favor.
Becoming the Alpha Dog
All of these lessons ultimately come together into one achievement – becoming the alpha dog. It’s what you, as an aspiring male, want to achieve metaphorically in life. Take charge of your career, take charge of your finances, be a leader in your community, and be a stable rock in a relationship. By literally becoming the alpha dog in your own household, you’re already learning the fundamentals that contribute to being the proverbial leader of the pack in life.
Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get the tough stuff done. Instill a habit of routine responsibility. Be patient, selfless, and faithful. Build your social connections. Don’t be afraid to ask for favors and don’t hesitate to return them. It ain’t easy being Fred to your own personal Dino but it will make you a better man and the envy of every Barney that you know.