Habits – as humans we have good ones and bad ones.
So do our dogs
But first back to humans – I have a coffee habit. On a morning I wake up, walk downstairs, open the patio door to let my dogs out into the garden, flick the kettle on and drop a spoonful of coffee in a cup.
I don’t think about any of that, it is a habit; I don’t consciously think ‘I need to let the dogs out’ neither do I think ‘hmmm I fancy a cup of coffee’ … I just do it. Every morning.
Why? Because it is a habit, it is something I just do on auto pilot.
We all have them and again, so do our dogs.
I try not to be too sciencey (which is hard as I am a total dog geek, especially when it comes to our dogs brains) but habits are stored in a place in the brain called the basal ganglia. This basically means that they are easy to access and automatic, needing no effort or thought to access them unlike memories which are stored in different parts of the brain
What builds habits? Repetition
What makes habits happen? Cues
Habits are cue dependent. Me and my coffee – me walking in the kitchen on a morning is a cue to put the kettle on just like me gathering up dog bowls ready to feed my dogs is a cue to my six dogs to all go sit calmly in their beds.
If you google it, it will probably say that it takes 21 days to build a habit but more recent research suggests it takes longer than that with an average of 66 days for humans.
You can shape your dogs habits, the ones you want with motivation (giving your dog a reward), repetition and adding a cue that will prompt the behaviour to happen.
It is really nice when your dog does something you want without asking them to do it, like lying at your feet in a cafe, sitting nicely when you stop and chat to a friend in the street or sitting calmly and waiting for you to open the door before a walk.
Just like it is great when children do something like homework or tidying their bedroom without nagging them to do it.
Choose something you would like your dog to do automatically and just practice it … often.
Keep it kind,