Routine is vitally important for dogs, and it goes a long way towards providing them with a sense of security and happiness, and keeping them on an even keel. Dogs dislike uncertainty and change, and small things such as feeding your dog at the same time every day, walking them at around the same time, and keeping your household stable and calm can all help to ensure that your dog is happy and stress-free.
If your dog suffers from uncertainty, or your household is going through a lot of changes or your dog does not have a regular routine for their daily lives, the chances are that they will begin to exhibit signs of stress, and generally be rather unsettled and feel insecure about their living situation.
It can be helpful for the dog owner to perform a quick audit now and then of how your dog’s daily routine is working out, or if things have started to slip or are undergoing changes.
Read on for our top tips on keeping your dog on an even keel and using a routine to reduce stress in the dog.
Indications that your dog is stressed
If your dog begins acting up, there are a multitude of potential root causes for this, but stress caused by an upset of their regular routine or feelings of insecurity are often at the root of it.
Be alert for all of the following signs and symptoms of stress in your dog:
- Inappropriate toileting, soiling in the house, and not asking to go out.
- Barking, whining or howling without a clear cause.
- Irritable or snappy behaviour without an obvious trigger, which is out of character for your dog.
- Destructive behaviour such as chewing the furniture or your property.
- Generalised low-level stomach upsets can be brought on by stress and nerves, such as runny stools or inexplicable bouts of diarrhoea.
Managing stress by instilling a routine in dogs
While stress in dogs can be caused by a variety of reasons, it is important to address your dog’s routine and security in their daily lives first and foremost, as this is the most common cause of stress in dogs and needs to be ruled out before you look into other causes.
- Feed your dog at the same times each day, in the same place and on the same food.
- Make sure that your dog is used to having set walks each day at set times; it is fine to walk them more often, but important to get them used to the minimum amount of walks and walking times they can expect as well.
- Try to ensure that you go out and return home when working at around the same time; your dog should be able to anticipate the upper limit of how long they will usually be left alone for, and know that someone is coming soon.
- Try to keep the household stable in general, with the same people around regularly and the same main caregivers looking after your dog.
- Ensure that your dog has their own bed and personal space, and do not move this or interfere this unnecessarily.
- Get up at around the same time each day, or at least set a time that you will get up to let your dog out to go to the toilet, regardless of whether it is a work day or your day off.
- If your dog’s routine must change in the short term or things will be different than normal one day, try to shield your dog from this as much as possible, and use their crate or quiet space to provide security for them when other things are going on.
Events that can upset your routine and stress your dog out
However hard you try to make it otherwise, the chances are that at some point, things will not go to plan or you will have to break your dog’s routine for some reason! Some of the most common causes of this that can stress your dog out include:
- Moving home.
- Changing jobs.
- Going on holiday, either with your dog or putting them into kennels.
- Sickness or injury of someone in the household.
- Getting a new pet, or someone new joining your family.
Dealing with stressful situations
It is sometimes unavoidable that your routine will change and your dog’s normal parameters will have to change or expand to account for this, and when this does happen, you should make sure that you do everything in your power to make the transition as stress-free as possible for your dog.
- First and foremost, try not to change more than one thing at once. If your dog temporarily loses the stability of one part of their routine, for instance, getting used to being walked at a new time, try to ensure that everything else is kept consistent for them until they get used to the change.
- Make sure that your dog has a safe place that they can call their own, such as their crate or favourite bed, that they can retreat to if things start getting a bit much.
- Ensure that you spend plenty of time with your dog, and let them know that despite the changes going on around them, you are still there and constant and care about them.
- React to your dog’s behaviour and tackle any issues as they come up, rather than anticipating the onset of stress before it happens, and so, avoid inadvertently triggering a stress reaction by your change in behaviour.