A dog provides great companionship while avoiding many of the downsides that come with human relationships.
Earlier this year, my family made an addition: a four-month old puppy named Everett. (He’s now 10 months old and has grown a lot.) It had been over 12 years since I’d had a dog in the house. When I was growing up, we had another dog, Gizmo, that lived to be 17 and we had to put down shortly after I graduated from college.
Being a shy kid growing up, owning a dog helped me a lot. At the time, however, I didn’t know as much about myself as I do now. I’ve since learned that I’m an introvert — I recharge from alone time, which includes solo activities like reading, watching TV, exercising, or going for walks. My dog provided companionship and unconditional love that I needed as a kid who had a hard time making friends. I’ve realized a dog can provide those things for me now, too, as an adult.
Having a dog in the house has been good for my family in a lot of ways, and I believe that among those ways, it has helped me as an introvert. (After all, we introverts have a deep connection with animals!) Since I’m always trying to learn and grow as an introvert, I’ve looked for ways in which owning a dog can help me. Here are four that I have identified.
4 Ways Getting a Dog Helped Me as an Introvert
1. Owning a dog has helped with my loneliness.
“Wait, introverts get lonely? I thought they didn’t like to be around others!” Well, everyone, including introverts, needs interaction with other people. It just has a different impact on “quiet ones” than it does on everyone else. While extroverts gain energy from being around others, introverts lose energy from socializing.
Because of that, it can be more difficult for introverts to make friends and build other social connections. Personally, I don’t have many friends in my life, which in some ways suits me well because I’m an extreme introvert. But it still causes me to feel lonely sometimes and makes me wish that it were easier for me to befriend people.
Now, I do have a wife and two stepsons, so being by myself is almost never an issue. And I don’t want you to think that I’m still “lonely” now that I’m married; indeed, my wife provides great companionship and fills a void in my life that I had before. I just wish that sometimes I had more social connections.
Owning a dog has helped with this — pets and introverts are perfect for each other. I know it’s not the same as having human contact, but it does provide another living creature in the house with whom I can interact. Sometimes, I need time away from the dog, just like I need time away from humans. So I’ll go for a walk or go into another room for a while, while someone else watches the dog for me. And after I’ve had some alone time, I’ll come back recharged, ready to give the dog my full attention again.
2. He gives me something to talk about when I don’t know what to say.
I love my wife, my stepsons, and the rest of my family. However, as an extreme introvert, sometimes it’s still hard for me to come out of my shell, and I struggle to find things to talk about with them. Having a dog has helped to bring my family together — not only because we have had to share in the responsibility of taking care of Everett, but also because it gives us something to bond over and talk about.
This has helped with other people I know, as well, including extended family, coworkers, and friends. I have posted about the dog a lot on Facebook, which keeps people in the loop on how my life is going, while Everett provides great conversation with extended family when I see them. People are always curious about how the dog is doing; it’s a great “in” to start conversations with people, which in turn gives me more confidence in my ability to successfully interact with others.
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3. A dog provides a lot of great qualities in companionship while avoiding many of the negative ones that come with human relationships.
I can’t speak for every introvert out there, but one reason I have a hard time making friends and connections with others is that it is hard for me to put all my trust in other people. I’ve had people who I thought were my friends betray me. I’ve seen human beings turn on each other often. And hard times can bring out the worst in people.
That’s not to say that human beings are always bad; indeed, interactions with others, in a healthy manner, are good for us. However, what I like about having a dog is that it comes without all the drama of human relationships. Although, sure, a human won’t chew up your slippers, dig holes in your yard, or constantly try to get into your garbage like my dog has done.
However, it has been my experience that a dog will love you and be there for you no matter what. I could have a hard day at work or could mess up badly, and he wouldn’t care. He’s always there, ready to show me unconditional love. He doesn’t care that I’m an extreme introvert. He still thinks I am the greatest human being ever and always wants to be my friend.
4. Having a dog has encouraged me to try new things.
We recently took Everett to a daycare center for the first time, and they said that while he was shy at first, he warmed up to his surroundings (and the other dogs) and had a good time. I’m sure it was uncomfortable for him to have to go there, but he adapted to the situation and ended up benefiting from it as a result.
We noticed that Everett was shy when we first got him, as well; the animal shelter had told us that, too, before we met him. However, in the time that he’s lived with us, he has become more comfortable in our home — in fact, sometimes a little too comfortable (for example, he sometimes tries to hop up onto the dinner table and take our food).
I can learn a lot from Everett. I’ve always been shy and had trouble adapting to new situations. Yet when I see Everett doing this, it causes me to rethink my hesitancy to try new things and to want to get off the sidelines and live life to the fullest. For example, we recently had to board him during a family vacation, and the report we got was that while he was shy at first, he quickly opened up and interacted with the humans and the other dogs.
Dogs can teach us a lot, and that’s one life lesson that I’ve learned. Hopefully, there will be many more.
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