Tiny Habits

Last week, I put my husband and Silas in boot camp. A very mild, gentle boot camp, but that’s what I called it to get the point across.

See, Silas has the pair of us neatly slotted into roles. I am the serious one. I do the training. I give the medicine. I feed the meals. I play, but my games have rules and end points.

Silas expects K to play, all the time. Which would, honestly, not be terrible. He was asking to play, though, by leaping into K’s chair and play-biting him, usually his clothes, until in desperation K would tell Silas to go find a toy.

We’ve made some new play rules that I may talk more about soon.

It’s the second prong of the plan that I’m really loving, though. I wanted K and Silas to practice their obedience cues together. I saw this as a listening exercise: “Oh, sometimes that guy has the cookies in his pockets, too! I should pay attention when he says things.” I also wanted this to be the smallest possible amount of time. This was just a quick practice, not a commitment.

A small, finite amount of time. In a flash, it hit me: I make tea every afternoon, which involves a four minute timer. K and the dog could do training while I make the tea, because we’re all usually in the kitchen anyway. Four minutes, exactly, by the timer, doesn’t seem onerous.

At the time I didn’t think much about it; just that the time seemed workable. If you’ve ever done research on forming new habits, though, you’ve read that the one of the best ways to build a new habit is to link it to an old one. I’ve been incredibly pleased at how quickly “tea time dog training” took hold. It’s also (much like tea time for the people) an excellent bridge to the rest of the evening–a good way to take the edge off of “You’ve been at work all day!!!! I Love You!!!!”

One tiny habit that sets a precedent for success. I like it.

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