Lessons About Training and Life from My Beagle

Ste Smith's beagle, Bullseye

Most Americans, and even more military members, love dogs. Not only are they great family companions, but they also serve with us and are true heroes on the battlefield. I am continuously impressed by Service Dogs helping people move through blindness, call 911 in emergencies, predict seizures, and find lost people with their noses. Incredible!

Throughout life, we experience many methods of learning. They start with what our parents and siblings teach us, personal experiences, going to school, playing sports, and the advice of mentors. But if you listen and observe closely, you can learn everything you need to know about life from a dog.

I have been a beagle owner since I found Bullseye on a shooting range at Ft Pickett. Va. Now, we are on our fifth and sixth beagle rescue. Here are a few things you pick up from a dog if you listen.

Never Give Up – You will catch a squirrel one day.

It never fails; each day my dog chases the squirrels out of the yard and into the trees. Keep fighting and work toward those goals with daily persistence, even when you do not win every day.

You have to want things in life the way a beagle wants to eat.

If you have a goal in life, whatever that is, you have want it more than anything else, especially if it is difficult. For instance, if you want to lose 100 lbs to serve your country, or join a special ops unit, get through college, or beat an illness, you have to be invested in it with all your focus and will.

And when you achieve that goal – eat and appreciate it like it will be your last meal ever.

Enjoy and appreciate your accomplishment.  An attitude of gratitude can go a long way to keep you focused on the next hurdle in front of you. 

Sometimes you just need a nap, especially after eating.

The importance of sleep cannot be stressed enough. Dogs have this habit down – we can use a little more sleep as it is our natural stress reliever and recovery tool.

When out and about, take time to stop and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells.

Try to unhook yourself from gadgets and observe your surroundings. It is safer and enables you to be aware of any danger But, you also miss so much in life if you don’t stop, look, listen, and yes, even smell.

When a stranger comes into the yard, scare first, then be nice once the situation is assessed.

Situational awareness requires you to respond to potential threats. This skill is not paranoia, but just a realistic method of protecting yourself and your family. Bark, sniff, then let them rub your belly.

Drink more water and pee more often. 

Too many people don’t drink enough water and confuse dehydration for hunger and eat more instead. Add more water to your life and see the difference in weight loss, water retention, clear skin, fewer urinary tract issues, and more. Keep your dog’s water bowl full and clean or they will find water elsewhere in the house.

Going for a ride is therapeutic, especially if you drive by a few restaurants and sniff. 

Relaxing with no place to be or to go is very good for you physically, mentally, and even spiritually. Even if it is just for a few minutes – take a moment and disconnect.

Playing catch or fetch should be a daily occurrence.  

Getting outside and moving with your family members is good for everybody. It burn calories, relieves stress, and builds bonds for life.

Be vigilant and ready to protect your loved ones.

Look, listen, and have a plan. Nothing wrong with being prepared to protect your home and loved ones around you. Just like you would have a fire escape plan, have a plan for other events, especially a non-communications plan when you cannot get in touch with members of your family that are not near you.

Let people hear your unique voice.

We are all unique and special in our own ways. Let people hear you howl and be loud and proud.


A dog defines what it means to be a loyal friend. This is by far the most important trait we can learn from our dogs. Make sure you are worthy of that loyalty. Find something that makes you a better person.

There is more to learn from your animals if you sit back and observe.

Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).  There are also over 800 articles on Military.com Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

Latest Fitness Books: Navy SEAL Weight Training and Tactical Fitness

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