Old Dogs And New Tricks

“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”

(Often attributed to The Buddha)

Gracie, our 12 week old chocolate labradoodle is turning out to be a great little teacher, and as it turns out, what works for dogs, can work for humans as well.

“What you pet, you get.”

I learned this concept from my daughter, whose two GSP/Labs are in training. So, on the one paw, if you want calm, happy behavior, you reward it when you see it. On the other paw, if your pup is whining and jumping, unless you want more of that behavior, don’t pat it on the head. Turn your back and simply ignore it. Over time, they will learn to let go of what is ignored, and hang on to what brings the reward.

Our brain often behaves like an unruly little puppy. Our anxious thoughts, old stories, and toxic self-talk show up, nipping at our heels, but rather than turn our backs on them, we often reward them with our attention. Racing around our brains, they proceed to chew up all of the energy we could be using to take positive steps, leaving us weary, discouraged, and stuck. The brain will always gravitate to what is familiar, and the more we focus on those negative messages, the more they sink their teeth into our psyche.

What if we trained our brain the way we train a puppy?

The next time one of those old stories shows up, what if we turned our back on it? Pretended it was a canine looking to us for guidance, ignored that toxic thought, and rewarded ourselves by offering a new story. One that would free us from our self-imposed kennel. Over time, we might learn to let go of what is ignored, and hang on to what brings the reward.

Whoever said an old dog can’t learn new tricks?