15 Life Lessons from Training Dogs

By | June 22, 2020

[June 22, 2020]  Starting college was a major decision for me.  No one, other than my mother, had any college time, and she only went for a short time.  My family could provide no guidance or suggestions for me.  My main problem, like so many, was that I had no money to pay for it.  So I got a job training dogs.  It was a time-flexible job I had while attending college.1  I learned a lot from those days and would like to share a few of those lessons.

Fortunate for me, there was another young man who was starting a dog-training business and had advertised for an assistant.  I applied and was accepted.  As a boss, he was okay, although a little nutty, in my opinion.  I certainly didn’t share that thought with anyone; least it gets back to him.  I wanted to make a couple of extra dollars to pay for university lab supplies and health insurance.  This job fits my goals perfectly.

Over nearly three years, I trained all breeds, ages, and temperaments of dogs.  I trained them one-on-one with their owners, boarded them 24/7 and trained them, and trained dogs with their owners in a classroom setting.  Folks paid in cash and loved their dogs.  What could be better?

The lessons came quickly.  Of the 15 life lessons learned, they all were valuable later in my military career.  Here is what I learned:

  1. Like people, dogs are smarter than you think.
  2. Every dog is different in intelligence and temperament.
  3. Dogs can be pushed beyond their tolerance level and react poorly.
  4. They are very accepting and tolerant of your behavior.
  5. To successfully train a dog, the human also has to be taught.
  6. Dogs can be confused by human behavior.
  7. Abused and neglected dogs are unpredictable.
  8. Love and loyalty are a dog’s main redeeming qualities.
  9. Dogs are forgiving. They don’t hold grudges.
  10. Dogs love to play, exercise, learn new things, and socialize with people.
  11. Dogs like other dogs (mostly for play and sex) but the human is their primary focus.
  12. Dogs are never underhanded, sneaky, or judgmental.
  13. They can be easily shamed and humiliated.
  14. Dogs can be protectors that stand at your side or rescuers when you are in danger, despite threats to their own lives.
  15. And…. You can judge a person by the dog he keeps.

“To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs.” – Aldous Huxley

 For the past years since retirement from the U.S. Army, I’m blessed with my dog Bella.  She is a beautiful 5-year old Yellow Labrador Retriever.  I continue to learn from her that being humble is a worthy trait.


  1. I worked on the railroad during the summer months. https://www.theleadermaker.com/leadership-and-working-on-the-railroad/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

22 thoughts on “15 Life Lessons from Training Dogs

  1. Lynn Pitts

    Great stuff in your article. Thanks Gen. Satterfield.

  2. Anita

    If you can train a dog, you can also get along with people (with a little more practice!). I have three dogs and two cats; we all get along fine but I have to be the ‘enforcer’ at times to keep the peace. Great blog, Gen. Satterfield. Keep those great articles coming our way.

  3. Fred Weber

    Anything about dogs has my vote on a great website. Thanks.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      15 life lessons from dog training, who would have ever thought?

  4. Greg Heyman

    Hey guys, I too liked today’s blog. How about we get together and agree on a recommended future topic for https://www.theleadermaker.com? I think that would help us all get some thoughts from Gen Satterfield. Ideas?
    For me, here are a couple:
    1. State of leadership in US state governors (as measured in their handling of the coronavirus.
    2. Junior Leadership versus experienced senior Leadership.
    Just some ideas to pass around.

  5. Benny

    Well written and so thanks for another quick look at leadership. I would like, please, a future article on cats.

    1. Jonnie the Bart

      Hi Benny. Me too. Of course, Gen. Satterfield regularly works to his own tune but he does read the comments section, I know because he’s responded to me a few times. This is one of the best leadership websites out there. Each day is something unexpected and why I try to log on everyday. Good to see some of my old pals back.

  6. Dale Paul Fox

    Just a note that I found today’s post entertaining and not because I love dogs so much as I enjoy reading about how to be the best I can be. Oh, ha ha ha, a take off of an old army slogan.

  7. Scotty Bush

    Keep up the great work you are doing on your website Gen. Satterfield. I come here regularly for a quick read on leadership topics and learning how to be a better person. Today’s blog post didn’t disappoint.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      Right and the same reason here too. Today I logged on to get a quick read and found some pretty interesting things in the forum section too.

  8. lydia truman

    I sure liked your article. Anything about dogs or cats is fine with me. Thanks!

  9. Kenny Foster

    Hi all, hope that all the dads had a great day yesterday, watching the kids, seeing all the relatives show up (and social distancing and all that stuff), and getting a little holiday. Most of us no longer celebrate Fathers Day anymore and that, I believe, is part of our sad trend to discourage men from being men. That’s like telling a dog not to be a dog. Part of the “woke” culture that is destroying civilization.

    1. Dennis Mathes

      So very true, Kenny. Today’s intellectual elite (they think of themselves as such) believe they are too smart and morally better than us. That means they can be rulers over the rest of us, just like the thousands of years of rulers over civilizations. They are a throw back to the bad old days.

  10. Army Captain

    Good article and I like the list. My favorite is the first one, that dogs are smarter than you think. The same, of course, can be said about humans as well. I’ve found that if you give a person a job, some guidance, encouragement, and resources, most of them can get it done.

    1. JT Patterson

      That is what leadership is all about, Army Cpt. Well said.

      1. Yusaf from Texas

        I think we all were thinking the same thing here. Of course, this is also why JT (a good friend of mine) and I keep coming back here to Gen. Satterfield’s leadership blog! ?

      2. Max Foster

        I liked it too. Naturally, dogs and people have many similarities and most of them might just be a little unexpected. Dogs and humans have lived close to one another for thousands of years. Sometime compatible going on there.

    2. Randy Goodman

      Yes, and that is just another list of things to keep in our leadership rucksack.

  11. Stacey Borden

    Loved today’s article, thanks to Gen. Satterfield, I now have a list for my kids to read and think about. No problem started kids down the path of learning about how to do well in life.


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