5 Things I’ve Learned From My Dog About Life & Training



About a year ago, I took in my golden retriever Coda.  Up until then, I had lived alone since I left the Army in 2001.  Living with Coda has been an adjustment, but having to care for another  being has forced me to learn some lessons that apply to both life and training.

My Puppy…

1.  Smile

Coda is always happy.  Even if I yell at him for chewing up the furniture, he doesn’t care.  He’s happy as can be the next moment.  I have allowed negative emotions to fuel my training on more than one occasion.  Fairly recently I would kill the lights in my gym, crank some loud industrial music, and hit the weights with a vengeance.   Yes the aesthetic results were good – I looked better than I ever had.  But the toll on my soul was great. Ruminating over old wounds might provide some temporary fuel to toss the weights around, but the long term effects are not worth it.

Lately I’ve been leaving the lights on, playing music that is more uplifting, and my training sessions have a new-found spark.  And not too long after I started “leaving the lights on”  I mended the relationship where the wounds originated.

2. Learn From Your Mistakes

Coda has chewed up so much of my stuff.  The couch, the walls, all of my plastic containers. . . paper towels are his personal favorites.  But I will give that puppy credit in than he rarely chews the same thing up twice.  How many times do we do the same workout over and over and see NO results?  How many times do we fall to the temptation of the same crutch food over and over again?

How many times do we make the same mistakes at our jobs, with our loved ones, or in violation of our personal values?  Mistakes are necessary for the learning process in any endeavor – whether that be training or life.  Be like Coda and learn from your mistakes.


3.  Work Hard

Ok, I’ll admit Coda doesn’t do a damn bit of work.  But the pic of him with the dust pan is one of my favorites.  Now if he would just help sweep up some of the dog hair. . . The point is that we must work to achieve what we desire.  In the gym, and in life, that means pushing outside of our comfort zones into unfamiliar territory.  You will never deadlift more if you don’t put more weight on the damned bar!

Every once in a while you have to put enough weight on the bar so that you FAIL.  Now you know your current limit and have a goal to work towards.  Hard work is not busy work.  Working hard entails maximum effort with laser beam focus towards a desired outcome.


4.  Play Hard

Now this one Coda has down pat.  My puppy loves to play, play, play!  Too often we fail to make our training enjoyable.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the drab cinderblock walls and concrete floors of my gym, but sometimes you have to get outside and just PLAY.  Climb a tree.  Sprint in a grassy field.  Swim in a lake, pond, or even outdoor pool.  Yes, there is a time and place for regimented time with the iron.  But counterbalancing it with some unstructured physical movement in the great outdoors can be invigorating for the mind, soul, and body.


5.  Rest

When I leave my house at 5:30am to teach my morning circuit class, Coda is still fast asleep.  And he’ll often nap for a bit in the afternoon.  Sleep deprivation and an overall lack of time spent in recovery is often the biggest culprit when it comes to poor training results.  Training and nutrition are very important in reaching your fitness goals, but they are only two of the three ingredients.  Rest is the third and most often overlooked component when establishing a solid program for health and fitness.


There ya have it!  Since I don’t have kids, I used my dog – but what are some life lessons or important things you’ve learned from your pets or your kids?  Leave me a comment below and let me know! – Vic

P.S. – I’m giving away $233 worth of my best follow along workout videos, manuals and audio interviews for just $1.  It’s only available to the first 15 people who take advantage of it.  With over 1500 people reading this site today, I’m sure the spots will be gone fast… so head over and watch the video here…

5 Things I've Learned From My Dog About Life & Training
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  1. What a great post. I have two golden retrievers. The youngest one is almost 9 years old and still acts like a puppy. Which reminds me that age is somewhat irrelevant when you take care of yourself you can keep working and playing hard! Also, she once had to wear an e-collar after a minor surgery. The first hour she seemed so sad, but then after that she just got up and did what she wanted anyway. She decided the e-collar wasn’t going to stop her and she ended up learning how to scoop up her ball anyway! Perseverance!

  2. That is a very good post and a very cute dog. I’m a big dog person. I have a lab/boxer mix and used to be an aspiring vet (waaayyy back then…lol) but majored in Animal Science instead (now a personal trainer…long story).

    I do learn from my dog and I always notice how happy she is all the time. Nothing seems to bother her. After all, she’s only worried when she’s hungry or need to go to the bathroom….haha.

    Again, nice post!


    • Thanks, Anna. I used to be a lawyer in my previous life so I understand how career paths can change. 🙂

      And Coda only seems distressed when he wants fed or wants to go outside, too. I love that puppy!

  3. Liked your “dog lessons”. I get some of my best lessons from my 2 special needs kids. I’ve learned more about patience and compassion from them. They also seem to teach me more than I teach them. I’ve spent the past few years driving the equivilent of circumnavigating the globe getting our son to a special needs school. There was hardly any time for my needs.

    We are finally all together again and I’ve put away my suitcase. I’m making time for me and my health and now I’d like to look fit too.

    When the student is ready the teacher appears. Thanks Vic.

    • Agreed. When the student is ready the teacher appears. And a mentor of mine reminds me that when the TEACHER is ready the students appear. I appreciate your readership and look forward to your further comments.

      I have a few karate students that are autistic or were recommended to me from the Special Olympics. Patience and compassion from our special needs students/teachers are invaluable. Thanks again.

  4. Daisy the Great Dane pouts,moans and groans when she does not get her daily exercise.If I do not make it to the gym, it affects my mood as well.I need the exercise to keep my mind,soul and body happy.:)

    • Oh yes, Coda needs his daily walks too. He can’t go long distance (he protests and plops down on the ground after 15 minutes or so), but he likes to walk several times each day. We probably go on about 5 short walks each day.

  5. Gosh you think deep Vic! But such good points. The first one was so…oh I don’t know. But yes so much better to work out in a positive , grateful state of mind right?! I had’nt though about it but “the toll on my soul was great” sure makes sense. I also like the point about mistakes. These days I have become even more particular about food habits. I tell myself – stop! Buy those veggies on the way home even if you are tired! Because otherwise you’re just gonna eat some crap and get caught in the same ol cycle!

  6. What a great post. I so miss my golden… he was a Guinness World Record holder for holding 5 tennis balls in his mouth at one time, and appeared on Animal Planet. He was a model of fitness too, we ran everyday, and he loved to swim… of course his favorite activity was chasing tennis balls.
    Just here visiting your blog for the first time… I am a wellness coach and I think you have great information… keep it coming!


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