If you're a fan of dogs, you probably don't think a lot about why you like them. And if you're not a fan, you're even less likely to have given them much thought. But if you really watch a dog over time, you'll see a lot of characteristics that are admirable and a help if you want to succeed in life, no matter how you define success.

Loyalty

Although some people swear by being ready to do anything to anyone, loyalty to people deserving of it goes a long way. It will be returned and build a set of relationships that help you through the bad times and celebrate the good ones.

Caring

Dogs care about people, other dogs, and even other animals. It's an expression of what we call humanity in people. Sociopaths and others without it might dismiss the notion as sentimental and foolish, but the great force of evolution is one of community and cooperation, not of single individuals somehow standing above the fray. The more you care, the more strongly you can work with others and let them help you in return.

Trust

Dogs will trust the people they live with. You could spend your life always watching your back, but, oh, it gets tiring and doesn't necessarily help. Find people you can trust and then do that. Let them do what they can so you can do what you can. Your experience of life will be richer. And if someone isn't trustworthy, find someone else who is.

Speed

When dogs want something, they move with incredibly swiftness. (Yes, the puppy did grab that bit of dinner you accidentally dropped. No, you're not getting it back.) Go after what you want with all your heart and energy. Think and plan, but then move rapidly.

Singlemindedness

Dogs want what they want and when they do they don't get distracted. Focus on your goals and keep at them.

Determination

Working with that focus is also the insistence on doing what is necessary. Don't give up, even in the face of obstacles.

Playfulness

Only interested in work? Studies? Self-improvement? Stop taking yourself so seriously. All work and no play makes Jack Russell a dull terrier. Lighten up and let many burdens fall away.

Duty

Even a dog in a house or apartment has a sense of duty, needing to protect the premises and go on patrol. (To say nothing of nasally cataloging the entire neighborhood when on a walk.) People used to have a greater sense of duty to family, work, and the community. Don't shy away, as it's a privilege to be able to perform and offers a sense of fulfillment.

Inner Peace

When you meet your duty and have fun, all in proper proportion, you can gain some comfort. Ever notice how soundly dogs can sleep when they have the opportunity?

Intelligence

Dogs are smart. They not only learn tricks, but they train the humans they're with to better get what they want. If a dog is trying to get a toy trapped under something, it will probably go at it from different angles, trying to work the puzzle out. People may have bigger brains, but that does little good if they don't exercise them.

Curiosity

Life is amazing and wonderful and surprising. There's so much to experience and learn and do. Curiosity is only admitting the vast unknown nature of everything around you. Enjoy it.

Intuition

You need to think things out, but also to listen to your hunches. Ever get burned in a situations where you felt something wasn't quite right? If you were a dog you'd have started barking as the dodgy people around you. Don't drop to all fours but do pay attention to what something is trying to tell you.

Bravery

Dogs have great heart and will face seemingly impossible odds because they're trying to reach people they love or they're protecting someone important to them. Face your fears and do what you need and want to do.

Responsibility

A dog will go on patrol, watch for dangers, warn away people on its property (and you thought it was your home), see humans off, and be ready to greet them at the right time. It's the sense of responsibility, of knowing that it has a job to do. Be responsible towards others and yourself.

Acceptance

Not all things will go right, but you can accept the way the chips finally fall, as a dog ultimately lives the life it is dealt after doing everything it can. You may not get everything you want, but you'll be much happier and free.

Published on: Mar 18, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.