Keep Calm – Good for the Dog; Good for You

Keep Calm and Love Your Dog.I can learn a lot from my golden retriever Honey about dealing with nuisances.

Honey lies down to chew her bone. Ginny, our foster beagle, grabs the bone out of Honey’s mouth. Once Ginny tires of the bone, she walks on Honey’s face. No reaction. So Ginny grabs the end of Honey’s tail and pulls. Hard.

Honey just watches as we distract Ginny with another toy. She knows that the best reaction to a playful adolescent is to keep calm. If Honey got all excited, she would either rile Ginny up more. Or she might provoke a scrap.

Think there’s a lesson here for me?

Keep Calm on the Road

The other day I was riding my bike home after work.

I saw a car pull up to the intersection I was getting ready to cross. She had no signal on so I assumed she’d cross the street behind me.  But I put my hands on the brakes just in case she did something unpredictable.

She did.

Just as I was pedaling through the intersection, she turned left in front of me (perhaps thinking I had a stop sign?). She quickly realized I wasn’t stopping so she corrected herself to stay in the oncoming traffic lane (which was luckily empty) and avoided hitting me.

But she also thought she should be able to pass me so she continued driving in the left lane instead of stopping. I was traveling at over 15 mph so it wasn’t her smartest moment.

For a brief moment I considered the standard bicyclist’s response to a near miss—banging on the hood of the car.

But many hours of watching Honey deal with nuisances reminded me to keep calm.

Honey the golden retriever shows me how to keep calm when dealing with a nuisance.

Is this what they mean by dealing with a nuisance? I thought your name was Ginny.

It could not have ended well anyway. I probably would have moved off the handlebars just as I went over one of the many punishing potholes on my street and crashed.

As the driver accelerated and finally passed me, I thought back to times I had done stupid things behind the wheel—looking at the wrong traffic light and going when I should have stopped. Not registering the pedestrian standing at the start of the crosswalk. Forgetting to look behind me before backing up.

Eventually my heart stopped racing. And besides a little grousing to my husband later, I let it go (until now).

Deciding to keep calm was the right thing to do. Right?

Honey the golden retriever remembers to keep calm when someone takes her bone.

Go ahead and chew all your like. But don’t forget, that Nylabone is just a loaner. Don’t get any ideas about taking it with you.

Keep Calm in the Face of Puppies

Shelters and rescue organizations have a tough time finding foster homes for dogs who don’t like other dogs. Most people who love dogs enough to foster them already have dogs of their own.

We’ve had a couple of foster dogs who, while not aggressive, didn’t really care for Honey. They’d prefer to be an only dog. For one reason or another, they didn’t do well in the shelter. So they came home with us.

And we’ve had several irritating, shark-toothed, cute-as-can-be puppies.

Honey has always done well. We try to keep the stays short. No reason to stress her calm skills (after all, dogs can’t say “serenity now“). But Honey’s advice for dealing with irritating puppies? Keep calm.

Honey the golden retriever will keep calm even when sleeping.

Stop hogging the couch. Or I may have to–to–keep calm.

Fake It ’til You Make It

Scientists have found that smiling makes us feel better. And that our body posture causes physiological changes that can make us feel more confident.

Maybe my golden retriever already knows what scientists are just discovering. If we want to feel calm when something irritates us, we need to keep calm. And chew lots of Nylabones.

Keep calm. It’s good for the dog. And it’s good for me.



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  1. Good lesson. I find it much easier to tell the husband to remain calm then it is for me to remain calm – what’s up with that :)

  2. Keep calm… in traffic? That’s a tall order. lol. But a good one. Besides, I’m usually too tired and on auto-pilot during my 6am commute to get riled up about anything anyway.

    There are so many good lessons we can learn from our dogs. Moses is much like Honey; he’s very calm. He can ignore a pestering puppy, and if another dog doesn’t want to be his friend, he’s okay letting them be. Alma could learn this lesson a bit better, but I admire her desire to have fun and make the best of every situation.

  3. Good things to remember. I’m glad you didn’t get hit, or lose you temper. I might have lost mine.

  4. I wish I had a little ticker tape on the back on my car so on the odd occasions I do something stupid I could apologise to the car. My favourite way of dealing with a situation that I have ever come across is my friend who when a car did something stupid couldn’t find her horn in time and so would scream beep at the other car. Although the other car couldn’t hear he I thought it was a good way of letting go of steam but without having the situation escalate. I have on occasions been known to adopt this technique!

  5. It’s really easy to take things personally, when usually it has nothing to do with us! Honey is such a great teacher!! I’m with SlimDoggy – it’s always much easier for me to suggest that my hubby calm down while driving :)

  6. That’s so true and a great lesson to remember

  7. Honey is an absolute doll. The picture with the face-pawing and gnawing beagle proves out the point that Honey is beyond tolerant! I’ve seen this in both Brooks and Ike, who let Kelly boss them around. Ike tries to play Bitey Face with Kelly, and while she tries to really bite his face, he just wags his tail and gently turns the other cheek. Smart dog, because he doesn’t get riled up, she doesn’t actually bite.

  8. Just like yelling a dog only gets them going whereas quiet discipline is much more effective but, sometimes Mom just as to yell and with three of us against her sometimes, her yell does stop us cold.

  9. Your better than me, I would of been blasting off at them which I have and then I was told I needed anger management classes after he was yelling at me. Go figure. I will have to try this.

  10. I’m trying to remember these days to just take a deep breath and relax when things are happening that annoy or irritate me.
    When our puppy Luke first came home, our Golden Sheba simply avoided him. I guess just walking away is also a way of dealing with things! She has since become very patient with him, and just like Honey, learned to ignore him when he’s climbing on her and being annoying. At other times they are playing together like they are both puppies.
    There certainly is a lot to learn from our dogs!

  11. Nice tips Honey :) I think staying calm is something I do very well. I don’t freak out about stuff. Even with kids and pets and a mom with cancer. There’s just no point for me to stress over things. I figure it will just make things worse!

  12. Oh, my gosh. How scary. I’m VERY impressed with your ability to stay calm in that situation. My reaction would’ve been a “finger wave” or shouting something probably! Yeesh.

    Honey sounds like the perfect role model for the foster pups who have been lucky enough to find themselves in your care.

  13. Honey definitely seems to have the right answers. As much as I’m sure you wanted to tell that lady in a not-so-nice way to watch where she was going, it probably would not have done either of you any good. For one, you’re right. She probably just made a mistake… something we all do from time to time. For another, she probably realized her mistake and it frightened her as much as it did you. And for another, if you had called something out that she heard, it probably would have put her on the defensive and her brain would have been too busy justifying her actions to recognized her mistake.

  14. I’ve made my share of mistakes while driving so I try to always give the benefit of the doubt when I see one of them make a stupid mistake. Some days are easier than others. I’m glad you are okay and didn’t end up road pizza because of someone’s silly mistake.