Bad habits! Everyone has them: You, your spouse or family member, your animals… everyone. Habits can be hard to break. Replacing them with good habits, ones that improve our well-being and success, can make the process even harder.
Bad habits wiggle their way into our every day lives in forms such as: biting our fingernails, being late to class or meetings, not eating healthy, not exercising, and the list goes on.
So what about our animals? Are they perfectly free of bad habits? What about going to the bathroom on your new carpet? Or giving you a nice view of their tail when they pull you for a walk? They can get in habits of chewing your furniture, barking and whining – even biting.
With the hope that being with our animals improves our habits and ways of life, I thought it’d be motivating and insightful to post an excerpt from an article on exactly that: habits.
Dr. Stephanie Burns has devoted herself to learning about how to learn and the psychology of people as well as animals: emotions. Actually, she has done quite a lot of work with the Parelli’s, www.parelli.com, and learned unmeasurable amounts about humans and animals, and how they can best communicate with one another, because of her time with Parelli.
The article Burns wrote about habits, entitled Installing a new habit and breaking an old one, is extremely long. I took an excerpt of what I found to be the most useful and relevant! But I’ll also summarize, roughly, what I believe Dr. Burns is trying to bring across in this article.
She mentions multiple times, and I believe this to be relevant to both humans and animals, that to replace bad habits with better ones we have to make the unwanted habits very hard to do, as well as rewarding heavily for any effort towards the better habit. If your dog is pulling you and then puts slack in the rope, looks back at you and/or begins to walk next to you: reward heavily! Show them, and yourself, how amazing and worthwhile it is to change your habits for the better.
Be clear from the beginning on what exactly it is that you want to change and choose what you would like you, or your animal, to do instead.
Set up triggers and/or reminders for yourself. When you’re opening up the fridge to grab a leftover piece of cake and you see a fruit salad or some other healthy treat right next to it: you might think twice about chowing down on a huge slice of chocolate cake.
In conclusion: Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult! For you and your pet.