It’s a five-second dance party, and it’s important. I’ll explain.
Every day, when I let my dog back inside after his morning constitutional, we do a little dance together. We share a moment of dogjoy. Even if you’ve never heard the word before, I bet you know what I’m talking about. Nothing is happier than a happy dog. Just a drop of this particular type of joy is contagious.
Last quarter, in the d.school’s “Ritual Design” pop-up class, I considered the affordances of meaningful, intentional habits. Now, twice a week in the d.school class, “Play to Innovation”, I’m also reminded that play is an important activity for maintaining a healthy, creative brain -- not just for kids and puppies, but for everyone.
I’m also taking BJ Fogg’s “Behavior Design: Connecting People to Nature” class this quarter and, since the class meets outside, I was bringing my dogs with me.
Now, before I go any further, let’s spend a moment with habits. Often, when trying to introduce a new habit, people start with a radical, new behavior or try to overhaul their lives all at once. But that’s like setting up an all-but-impossibly-giant wall to climb. Why do that when you can create an easy on-ramp?
I work in Professor Fogg’s Persuasive Technology Lab. While there, I've learned the Tiny Habits method, which involves linking a new behavior to something that you already do. Tying the existing behavior to a new one is one way to lock in a new habit. It creates that easy on-ramp.
All of these tiny sparks -- from my classes to my work in the Persuasive Technology Lab – eventually came together, though they were tiny and difficult to identify at first.
Tiny things are often discounted, and I find myself, as a designer, instinctively gravitating toward the big, crazy, turn-the-world-upside-down ideas. They’re fun, and they have their place. Lately, however, I’ve been reminded that most big changes start out as small ideas, and those small ideas can be fun too.
My best work comes about when I pay attention to those tiny ideas. Much like Joseph Campbell’s advice to “follow your bliss”, if I keep collecting these small sparks, eventually they come together and take shape.
All of this led me to create DailyDogjoy -- a movement for fellow dog-lovers everywhere. From interviewing a number of dog owners, I learned that, though we spend time with our dogs every day, it’s rare that we give them our undivided attention and play, especially when things get busy. DailyDogjoy leverages do-it-yourself behavior design and the tiny habits method to help dog owners create tiny bursts of playful dogjoy every day.
The steps are simple and small:
1 Identify an activity you and your dog already do every day (mine is letting him in from the backyard, yours might be returning from a walk). This will be your cue.
2 Whenever your reminder activity happens, play with your dog for just a quick moment. Tug-o-war for a few seconds. Throw the ball once. The key is to keep it small.
DailyDogjoy is the result of me connecting a bunch of tiny dots in my life. If you give it a try, let me know. You can find me on twitter at @DailyDogJoy and exchange dog play ideas there or on Instagram using #dogjoy.
Noelle is a graduate of Stanford University with a B.S. in Behavioral Biology and Neuroscience. She is currently a master's candidate in Stanford's Design Program.