Why My Dog Needed a Self-Help Book

December 11, 2017


Winnie is a super-smart dog. She learns things incredibly fast and so, when we faced an undesirable behavior, I knew just the thing she needed. A book. Specifically...


Switch: Making Change When Change is Hard by Chip & Dan Heath


Here was the problem. Winnie was scratching at our back door when she wanted to be let in. It wasn't being done destructively but rather because it made noticable noise. The noise had actually trained us, her owners, to respond and let her back in the house. It's not like exactly like we could get mad at her for doing this because we had contributed to this problem over time by reinforcing the behavior through her desired outcome - an open door. 


In the book Switch,  the Heath brothers have broken down how successful people and organizations have been able to implement sustainable change. One of their principles is that when we assume something is a people problem (underperforming, not following direction, making poor decisions), it's often a situation problem (lack of training or clarity, not having the right tools). 


Winnie didn't have a behavior problem. She had a situation problem. Other than scratching at the door, she had no way to let us know that she needed in. I decided to help her out by changing the situation using my favorite super hero skill - using Amazon Prime for a purchase delivered to my door in two days or less! 


Ding, dong! My wireless electronic doggie doorbell had arrived just like promised! 


After one evening of training Winnie to touch her nose to the round disc attached to a standard wireless doorbell, followed by prompting her to touch the disc when she was scratching at the door, I thought it was time to see if she learned what to do. I mounted the bell outside this morning and let her out to do her business. Five minutes later, Jingle Bells (our chosen ring) was echoing through the house. She did it!


Way to go, Winnie!


Now, why in the heck did I share this whole story with you on a health blog page? Because when we are faced with repeating a behavior that doesn't suit our health goals, we want to stop blaming ourselves for what feels like a shortcoming and analyze our enviroment to see if we are able to do anything that can make choosing healthy habits easier. 


Fridge full pop and a freezer full of ice cream? Situation problem.

Candy bowl on your desk? Situation problem. 

Chips and cookies in the pantry? Situation problem. 


Yes - we are accountable and can be responsible for our own choices. But if the environment is more conducive to health, won't we be more apt to inherently make better choices?







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