We as humans tend to be quite variable in terms of our preferences in how we like to structure our days. For some of us, a set routine is important, and getting up and going to bed at the same time, eating at the same times and generally having quite a structured life feels right, whilst for others, variety is the spice of life, and life can feel very restrictive if every day is exactly the same.
Dogs, on the other hand, need a set routine in order to thrive and be happy, and a dog whose care and lifestyle is erratic in terms of what they can expect from their owners and day to day life is likely to be insecure, somewhat anxious and potentially, hard work to have around.
Even if you are the sort of dog owner that likes a lot of variety in terms of what you do each day and where you walk your dog and what you do with them, there are elements of your dog’s life that need to follow a reliable routine – like their mealtimes, when they are allowed out to the toilet, and when they can expect to settle down for the night.
This is something that most dog owners realise, or learn through trial and error – but have you ever wondered why dogs need a set routine, and how this benefits them? In this article we will explain the answers. Read on to learn more.
Whilst dogs tend to need to pee more frequently than they need to poop, if your dog is fed at the same sort of times each day, the times when they need to poop will usually be consistent too, and follow a pattern that you can easily recognise.
By setting your dog a feeding routine and then a routine for when after meals they go out to do their business, you can help to avoid accidents in the house – and anxiety on the part of your dog when they need to go out.
Additionally, if your dog needs the loo and knows that you will be letting them out in the next few minutes, they will be more likely to hold on a minute or two more than they would if they are unsure when their need will be met!
Dogs are very opportunistic about food and most dogs if left to their own devices will eat anything and everything available to them. However, a set feeding routine will help your dog to learn that they’re really not going to go hungry and don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, and this can help to reduce scavenging and particularly, food aggression.
A dog without a routine doesn’t know what to expect of their life and owner; when their needs will be met, what is happening to them and so on. Because dogs don’t have a lot of control over their own lives and are fully reliant on us to meet their needs, a dog that deals with a level of uncertainty every day is apt to be more unruly, disobedient and highly strung than one that knows what to expect.
As mentioned, if your dog finds their life unpredictable or uncertain and they never know when they’re likely to be fed, walked, put to bed, got up, allowed out to the toilet and so on, and if they don’t even know when you’re coming home or who will be looking after them on any given day, this can be very stressful.
Change and upheaval is unavoidable in our lives at times, such as when we move house, or if we work unpredictable shifts and so on, but keeping your dog’s routine constant helps to reduce stress and keep them calm, even when the things going on around them are in a state of flux.
Separation anxiety is common to many dogs, and can become an established behaviour very quickly. It is also all too easy to cause separation anxiety at a young age, which is consequently much more difficult to sort out later on – and both never leaving a dog alone, and also leaving them alone for too long, or at too young an age, can trigger separation anxiety.
However, an adult dog of any breed should be able to tolerate being left alone at home for a few hours at a time if they are conditioned properly for this and provided with things to entertain themselves with, and having a set routine is vital to support this as well.
If your dog knows that you always return to them at a certain time or that you will never leave them alone for more than a certain amount of time, they will be less anxious in general, and less likely to panic when you do leave them.