Cues, coffee and habits

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 go downstairs, open the 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 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 motor functions, needing no effort or thought to access them unlike memories which are stored in different parts of the brain

What builds habits? Repetition
What triggers habits to 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 grabbing some treats and sitting on a chair in the garden is a cue for Bruce to throw lots of behaviours at me; because that is the chair I use for free shaping.

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,


Related Articles

Powered By MemberPress WooCommerce Plus Integration