Humans and dogs are similar in that we are all creatures of habit. We like to do things in our own particular ways. When we deviate from one course of familiarity into the unknown, it can create anxiety.
What makes humans slightly different is that we can often find spontaneity quite exciting. Dogs, however, thrive on the regularity of routine and structure. Being able to get your dog into a structured routine will help you to effectively train them, avoid destructive or aggressive behaviours and manage their anxiety.
Even the smallest routines matter to your dog
Late in the evening before going to bed, I take Poppy, our Lhasa Apso, out into the garden for her final little walk of the day. I have a routine which seems to help Poppy. As soon as I mention going out, she follows me to my shoes. She then waits patently while I put them on.
Once I make for the back door, Poppy goes to her food bowl and has a little snack, followed by a quick drink. Only then will she join me in the garden. Poppy will rarely go out alone unless I go too. I often wonder if this particular trait is my own fault in that I have always accompanied her in the past. Or perhaps she is scared of the dark?
Routines provide dogs with reliability and security
This got me thinking, so I did a bit of research into the behaviour of dogs with particular emphasis on a regular routine. I learned that dogs are creatures of habit and need the security and reliability of a structured life.
This not only applies to trips into the garden at bedtime but to daily walks and feeding times. It is important that dogs have a structure that is consistent and stable. This enables the dog to be happier and more confident about their role in the environment in which they live.
Dogs like to know what is expected of them
Our dogs are part of the family and it helps them if they are comfortable about what is expected of them or what they expect of us. Having a confident and contented dog will allow you to make changes in the routine if it is necessary, without causing your pet to suffer additional stress and anxiety as a result of any unexpected changes.
Obviously, changes to a dog’s normal routine must be introduced gradually because I am sure that Poppy considers herself just as important as anyone else in the family and expects to be treated accordingly. Poppy knows when to expect a treat and also when she should be taken out for a walk. If we do not follow the routine then we will certainly be made aware of it.
In setting your dog’s sleeping routine, make sure that your dog gets up with you at roughly the same time each morning. This enables your dog to fit into your own routine. Within this schedule, your dog will get the rest they need. In turn, that gives them the energy for walking and play during the day.
Make sure you give your dog food and water at the same time each day. Imagine expecting your dinner and then not receiving it at the right time. Ensuring our dogs eat at the right time is not normally difficult because all of the family generally eat at the same time.
Dogs do understand words and usually let us know when they need a toilet break. We must always look out for these signals and ensure the dog has the opportunity to go out. After they have been, it is a good idea to reward them with one of their favourite treats. This will then become part of the normal routine.