Even the people who lead the most dynamic life have some kind of routine. If our life is based solely on a routine, we can call it monotonous, but if there are certain things we do at the predetermined time, or an order of activities we do in the morning, that’s a healthy routine which makes our days easier, more structured and efficient.
This is very similar with dogs. In fact, it's even more important for dogs, because they need a daily routine in order to function properly and be emotionally stable. The dog's daily routine needs to be based on their requirements and personality, and your ability to meet those every day, so this what we'll discuss and how you can implement it.
Before we get into routines and schedules, let’s take a look at your dog’s perceptions of time and space since they play a crucial role in establishing a routine.
Studies show how our dogs have an amazing perception of time of day and even time of week. Additionally, they are creatures of habit. Think of your pooch as a walking clock that intuitively carries the mental notes of what comes next.
Naturally, you will not be able to observe this ability in a puppy, but an adult dog who has been in one family since a young age will be a representative example of how sticking to the schedule works for dogs.
Science says that canines remember our activities and connect them with a particular time of day. If we repeat the same activity at the same time for a prolonged period of time, they will know what you will do next and even help you with that.
Pay attention to how your dog behaves on working and non-working days. You will see them up and running much earlier on the days when you wake up early. On the weekends they will sleep longer, and won’t even bother trying to wake you up. This is how precise they circadian clocks are.
Studies have found that dogs have “time cells” in their brain. Thus, a dog's perception of time is one of the reasons why you will see them disgruntled at the door when you come late for work, or already bringing you the leash because you got late for your regular walk time; it's as if they keep checking the clock.
Dog’s Perception of Space
In the same way that dogs are able to connect the time of day with a certain activity, they feel safe and secure in the familiar space, and they can predict your actions based on the room you are in.
For example, if you spend your time in the bedroom only when it’s time for sleep, your dog will connect your being in the bedroom as a sleeping time for them, too. If the pup is used to sleeping next to your bed, you can see them crawling next to it as soon as you open the bedroom door.
Try eating for several days in a row on the balcony, and you will see that your pooch will start following you with excitement whenever you open the balcony door hoping that you will offer them a piece. They might start salivating when you go out to the balcony even if the food is nowhere around.
Reasons Why Your Dog Needs a Routine
Dog’s sharp detection of time and space, and mental creation of a routine in their own mind, is what makes them so highly dependent on daily schedules. And who can blame them – everybody wants to have something to look forward to.
This doesn’t mean that your whole day needs to be pre-programmed just because you have a pet. Try sticking to the schedule when it comes to the main activities, and the ones which would ruin your own routine if done differently.
Sticking to a certain routine can make it easier to accomplish a few things with your dog and to teach them how to behave the way you would like.
1. Routines Help with Potty Training
Teaching a puppy when and where he can relieve himself is a tiring task. It involves a lot of cleaning and walking around before your young dog learns the appropriate way of doing everything correctly. This is a very good reason why you need to stick to the schedule, and one of the main reasons new pet owners fail at housebreaking.
As soon as you get a puppy, start walking them several times a day but at the approximately same time every day. Bear in mind that puppies have smaller bladders than adult dogs, so you will change potty routine as he gets older and needs to go potty fewer times in a day.
In this situation, routine plays a crucial role because the dog will quickly remember the suitable place for relieving himself as well as the time of day. In the situations when his bladder is full, he will decide to hold it knowing that this time of day is soon enough.
2. Routines Help with Teaching Commands
If you want to teach your dog basic commands like “Sit” and “Stay”, or more advanced tricks such as “Close the Door” or “Roll Over”, regular teaching routine will help you with this, too.
It is a good idea to create a teaching schedule for the whole week for your dog. If you activate him and make him think, and remember things around the same time, he will start learning things more quickly and efficiently, according to canine psychologist.
When teaching your dog how to behave properly, always prepare some treats for the successfully accomplished exercise. Since they are often repeated many times, the dog can get bored or exhausted. This is why you need to create a routine by which he is looking forward to this time of day because it doesn’t bring only repeating the same thing over and over again, but also a tasty reward.
3. Routine Can Improve a Dog's Mental Health
As dogs are animals dependent on routine, having one has a good effect on their well-being and overall mental health too. On the opposite side of the spectrum, studies show that randomness creates stress and anxiety in dogs.
If the dog knows when the fulfillment of his basic needs comes, such as eating, sleeping, going for a walk and relieving himself, life will become easier for him. He will not be in fear of having to go potty in the house because he would know that his owner will walk him on time as he always did in the past. Thus, he will be able to enjoy and explore other things knowing that he is taken care of.
If you don’t create a routine for your pooch and make his day unpredictable, it can increase his stress levels.
4. Feeding Routine Can Prevent Weight Gain and Health Issues
If you don’t feed your dog at certain times of day and instead leave food out for him all day long (free-feeding), it can lead to unwanted weight gain or even to gastrointestinal problems caused by overeating, or erratic eating.
Having an exact feeding routine can help your dog maintain a healthy weight and make it less likely for him to beg for treats or food during the day. Such feeding schedule can also prevent a number of health issues associated with food consumption in dogs, in particular dog bloat.
Sample Daily Schedule for Dogs
Fortunately, dogs do not require too much and creating a schedule for them is fairly easy. There are five major “events” in a dog's day that owners should focus on, which are:
- Feeding time
- Sleep time
- Play time
- Bathroom breaks
- Petting time
For a new dog owner who's about to adopt a dog, or have just adopted one, it may be a little confusing what daily routine is best. Here's a sample schedule which you can use and adjust to your own and your pet's life.
7 am – 8 am. Wake up, morning walk and bathroom break. Optional playtime.
8 am. Feeding time, replace water with fresh one.
9 am. If possible, optional short walk an hour after eating (not earlier).
9 am – 12 pm. Dogs being dogs, which is nap time, chewing on toys, etc.
12 pm – 1 pm. If you're home, some interaction with your pet, quick playtime.
1 pm – 6 pm. More toy chewing, chasing tail, observing others, and nap time.
6 pm – 8 pm. Feeding time, then walk, longer playtime, grooming, etc.
8 pm – 11 pm. Interaction, quiet time, watching TV together.
11 pm. A short bathroom break walk (depending on your pet's needs).
11:30 pm. Bedtime.
This should cover you and your pet for the whole day, and you can adjust accordingly. And if you need to write these down, we've got some cute dog-themed weekly/daily/monthly planner templates for you (click the link and download them by “Save As…”).
How to Change Your Dog's Routine?
While routine is important for dogs, sometimes you may need to change it due to different personal circumstances. For example, imagine that you changed your job and instead of doing morning shifts, you now work afternoon shifts. The whole routine of walking your dog at 7 am now has to switch to 10 am. So, how do you do that without the consequences for your dog’s overall routine and psyche?
The answer is to make some space for a change when you create a routine in the first place. The routine shouldn’t be too strict in every aspect and should allow your dog to adapt to some new patterns.
Introducing a change gradually step by step, and changing only one thing at the time, is the best approach. In the process, instill confidence in your dog that his needs will still be met. Thus, if you want to change the walking time from 7 am to 10 am, move it for about half an hour every day until you reach the desired time.
Tools to Help With Routine Changes in Dogs
Other than making small incremental changes to your dog's routine step by step until you get to the final point, there are also some tools and products that will help with this process and keep your dog's levels of anxiety and stress at the possible lowest.
Consumables. Not necessarily medicine, but you can use natural chemical-free supplements that will keep your pet calmer and stress-free while changes are happening to their life. One of the best for this is Zylkene, which is popular among owners and vets alike.
Pheromone collars. It's an easy way to lower your dog's anxiety, and studies proven that pheromone collars are one of the most effective ways to reduce fear in dogs and keep our pets calm. There are several good calming collars which you can use, most of which have demonstrated their effectiveness.
Medicine. As a final resort when changing your pet's routine and finding them stressed, you can talk with your vet about using anxiety medication. While not completely natural (unlike Zylkene), these are very effective at reduce fear, stress and anxiety in pets, and could be a life-safer during large schedule changes.
Canine behaviorist. If nothing else works, and you find schedule change to take a tool on your pet, consult with a professional canine behaviorist. They will assess the situation and will suggest plenty of coping mechanisms to keep the animal's mental health in tact.
For me personally, when we were moving houses, I found that only a little bit of help with anxiety and calming is needed during schedule changes of my dogs – calming treats. Among the large variety of calming dog treats, I found these three to be the best:
|Pet Parents USA Dog Calming Treats 4g 90c +...||409 Reviews||$29.00||Buy on Amazon|
|Composure for Medium and Large Dogs, 30 Soft Chews||80 Reviews||$12.00||Buy on Amazon|
|Zesty Paws Calming Treats for Dogs - Turkey Flavor...||4,993 Reviews||$29.97||Buy on Amazon|
Routine and schedules are very important for your dog’s mental health and quality of life but also for your life dynamics. Having a daily schedule will help you teach your dog basic commands, advanced tricks, or simply good behavior. One of the most important aspects of keeping a doggy routine is the mental well-being of your dog and reduced levels of stress and anxiety, all of which comes with the memorized patterns of activities.
Ultimately, it is to your benefit that your doggo's life rhythm is in tune with yours and you are able to support each other. After all, just as you and your actions are important for your pup's health, so is their presence important for your own mental health. However, never make the schedules too rigorous because life always brings changes and it is your responsibility to teach your dog how to adapt to them.
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