Dog Swimming and the Unbeatable Psychology of Keeping it Simple

dog swimming

I’ve swum with my labrador retriever roughly 5,000 times. The first time was in the Atlantic Ocean in South Florida. Back then my wife and I lived only about a half-mile from the ocean in Delray Beach. Most nights after work I’d take the dog, now simply known as Mr. P, or ‘P’, by the kids, for a walk down Atlantic Avenue. This was back when he was our kid.

Each night, after the lifeguards went home, we’d walk down A1A and soak up the ocean air and the punishing humidity. Delray was not a dog beach, but after about 6pm there was nobody to enforce that, so it became my own personal dog beach. I will never forget the first time Mr. P went in the ocean.

He was a puppy and had never seen the ocean or sand or the birds and as soon as he saw the sea he took off. I ran with him and we both dove into the break. He was jumping and splashing and trying to climb on me. We were like Rocky and Apollo without the romantic undertones. We’ve had a shared love affair with water ever since.

This morning, however, when I decided to ditch our morning walk for a morning swim, I thought of something that I had never thought of before. I don’t know why it hit me, but it did:

Not once in Mr. P’s life has he ever known beforehand when he was going to get to swim, when the swim was going to end or if he’d ever get to swim again. And it got me thinking. I could learn a little something from the way Mr. P views swimming:

TAKE NOTHING FOR GRANTED

Every single time the dog leaps into the pool he acts like it is a), the first time, b) the best pool ever, and c) it’s the most fun thing on earth. He treats the first jump into the water as if we told him he’ll never get to do it again, so make it count. It’s amazing. It’s inspiring. He is equally excited every single time, never taking for granted that he swam the day before and may again tomorrow.

MAXIMIZE EVERY MOMENT 

Since Mr. P is a dog, he has absolutely no idea if we’re going to swim for two minutes or two hours. As such, he eats up every single second in the pool. He does laps. He lounges on the steps. He gets out and jumps in again. He seemingly never worries about how long he’s going to have. He just goes out and dominates every minute in the water. And the truth is, he has no choice. At any time I could just say, “time to get out, buddy”, and he has to get out.

LET YOURSELF ENJOY THE GOOD TIMES

While Mr. P is swimming he’s not thinking about treats or the half-chewed bone in the guest room or whether we’ll take a walk tomorrow or why my son likes to flick his wiener sometimes… No, he’s just thinking about swimming. Too many times in life we spend our time thinking about things that have nothing to do with the moment we’re in, when we should just be letting ourselves enjoy the people/places/activities we’re currently doing. When Mr. P chases me down and tries to climb on me or jump over me in the pool, I honestly think he’s 100% present and occupied in that moment. I have no way of verifying this, however.

ROLL WITH AND EMBRACE CHANGE

This morning, Mr. P saw me head to the front door to go on our walk, but then I changed my mind and started off for the back door. For a brief moment, he was confused. He looked at me like, “No walk? What the hell, man?”. Then he saw that I reached for a towel in the cabinet and began to jump up and down. He knew what was up. We were going swimming.

Now, I know my dog loves swimming. And I know he enjoys walks. As far as I know, he was dying to go on our walk this morning. But the second he saw we were swimming, he shifted gears from “best walk ever” to “best swim ever”. No regrets. He threw himself into the swim, no matter how much a walk would have meant. This is a big deal and hard for us humans to do.

We are creatures of habit. Creatures of routine. Rather than get flustered by quick changes in our lives, if we learn to embrace the changes that come along, we’ll be better off.

LEARN TO MOVE ON

As much as Mr. P loves swimming, he loves naps as well. Why does this matter? Because I know for a fact that he is ALWAYS disappointed when swimming ends. He gives me the same look every time. It says, “dude, we’re done? already?” He gives this look after 5 minutes or an hour.

But you know what? He mopes for about 30 seconds, then heads inside, stretches out and moves on to a nap. Maybe he’s dreaming about his previous swim or his next swim, but the look of content on his face is enough. He has now put the past swimming behind him and has embraced the nap.

I know. I know. He’s a dog. All he does is swim, walk, eat, nap, etc… It’s easy. Yes, it is. Who says life has to be so complicated?

Written By: Jon Finkel

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Jon Finkel is the author of Forces of Character with 3x Super Bowl Champion and Fighter Pilot, Chad Hennings, Heart Over Height with 3x NBA Slam Dunk Champion Nate Robinson, as well as Jocks In Chief, The Dadvantage – Stay in Shape on No Sleep with No Time and No Equipment, and all twelve volumes in the Greatest Stars of the NBA book series for the National Basketball Association, which won several ALA Young Reader Awards.

As a feature writer, he has written for Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, GQ, Details, The New York Times, AskMen.com, ComedyCentral.com, Yahoo! Sports’ ThePostGame.com and many more. His work received a notable mention in the 2015 Best American Sports Writing anthology. He has appeared on CBS: This Morning promoting his books.

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