Routines are important to your dog’s well-being

Keeping our dogs in a routine is essential to their well-being. You should incorporate routine into your dog’s life for a number of reasons.

We are all creatures of habit. We start our days at the same time, we take the same route to work (ever find yourself on autopilot?) and we block out time for exercise and Netflix.

Routines structure and calm our daily lives, so it is no surprise that our pets crave the same. As well as reaffirming to the dog that his basic needs will always be met (food, water, shelter), a routine also assures the dog that he will always find what he needs. Knowing he has these needs met can prevent him from going into survival mode – such as mooching, raiding the garbage, or scarfing down the cat’s food – if his source of sustenance is suddenly cut off.

When dogs cannot anticipate receiving regular meals, exercising outdoors, or even responding to their owners’ expectations (fear of punishment), they can become a constant source of stress for their owners. In other words, no matter how well you treat your dog, without the positive reinforcement that comes with a regular routine, these fears can still surface, resulting in him barking incessantly, being irritable or snappy, constantly asking for handouts, peeing on the floor, or even becoming ill, depending on the situation.

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Is there anything I should do? To maintain a harmonious relationship with your dog, whether you’ve just adopted a puppy or you have a seasoned pooch, you need to get into a fairly rigid routine that works for both of you.

The good news is that setting up a routine for your dog that not only provides him with stability, but also gives you confidence that he’ll behave well even when you’re not around isn’t all that difficult. Incorporate some simple yet consistent practices into your daily routine to influence your pet’s behavior. Here are some ideas:

Regular meal times

It’s just not an option. Providing your dog with food each morning and evening is an important part of his daily routine. When was the last time you couldn’t wait to indulge in a food craving? Whenever you decide to feed your dog later or change the meal time, he becomes concerned. Have you forgotten about him? Are you still going to feed him? Is he being punished? Don’t forget to stick to a set meal time. Dog owners who free-feed their pets (leave food out all day) might want to consider a structured meal time to reinforce positive behavior. Using the set meal routine can also lead to other routines, such as:

Potty breaks should be strategic

It is likely that when you walk your dog first thing in the morning, after he has been fed, and / or just before you settle in for the night, he is learning to hold off on doing his “business” until this particular time. Further, since he knows he’ll be outside throughout the day, he won’t be stressed about it. Your dog can’t anticipate when he will be able to relieve himself if you don’t establish a potty-break routine, so he is more likely to respond to the urge to relieve himself whenever it arises.

Exercise is a gift of love for dogs

What he can expect in terms of exercise

Some dog breeds are inactive or hate exercise. Even dogs who don’t like getting up from the sofa can be stimulated by a walk around the neighborhood. It’s not just about giving your dog a piddle break, it’s about letting him off steam, stretching his legs, and going for a brisk walk with his human pack leader. You should walk your dog every day to keep him (and you) fit and prevent him from becoming bored and destructive. Additionally, it gives him something to anticipate and look forward to. Want to spice up a boring walk? Toss a frisbee to a border collie or throw a ball to a retriever to challenge his natural instincts.

When you expect rewards from grooming, it can be enjoyable

We frequent off-leash parks where overgrowth abounds, resulting in burrs and tangles in our dogs’ long ears and curly coats. Despite being treated for them, I keep an eye out for ticks and other parasites they may have brought home. The quick inspection and grooming is done after each walk, and we have found a way to make it more fun (since they don’t like it). After we’re done, we reward them with a treat for their cooperation. Repeating this gesture after every comb-out makes grooming routines something they look forward to and accept.

There will be some routines your dog won’t enjoy, but they may be necessary (crating, vet visits, baths), and you must change the outcome by creating a more positive expectation. Thus, I must…

A fear-free approach to veterinary care

It’s time for the All-Important Treat

A dog’s routine diet does not include treats, chews, or biscuits, much like ours does not include chocolate or ice cream. Providing them with goodies without a good reason does not set this expectation. You should only reward stellar behavior with their favorite treats and make sure they understand the importance of earning them. Performing a basic trick (give-a-paw) can be as simple as grooming or sitting on command. His reward jar isn’t just an addition to his food dish, but also a way to anticipate receiving a reward based on certain behaviors.

Time for some downtime

Your pup’s routine is not always about timing and scheduling – sometimes it’s about consistency. Your pet needs a regular, protected space away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. When the house is full of young kids, strangers or just a change in energy (think Christmas, summer holidays, etc.), your dog will appreciate some quiet time. An escape spot that he knows he can escape can make the difference between a calm, cooperative dog and a stressed, snappish one. Whether it’s a crate, closet, quiet basement or his own special bed, he’ll have a secret hideaway. If you provide your pet with a familiar place which he considers his own and can regularly retreat to (or be retreated from) then he will be able to deal with the daily distractions of a busy household.

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Training that is more effective

By taking a consistent, routine approach to training your dog, you can get the best results. Using simple commands that he can understand and rewarding him with a reward of your choosing (treats, pats, praise) establishes a positive routine and sets expectations that he can comprehend and meet. Keeping the command consistent is key to not confusing and confounding your dog. The best way to achieve consistency is to ensure that everyone in the family uses the same commands and acknowledges good work, as well as those who interact with him on a regular basis (sitters, walkers, trainers, groomers).

You’ll have to spend time and patience establishing a routine for your pet, but the rewards will be well worth the effort. It is normal for you to want and expect regular feedback from your superiors, and he is no different. He knows when he has done a good job!

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