Dogs, as you know, come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, temperaments and personalities, but they have one thing in common… most dogs thrive with a bit of structure to their days. We’re not necessarily talking strict routines and regimes but rather a general sense of knowing what is likely to happen as they go about their daily lives. Dogs are creatures of habit, and a routine of some sort can foster a sense of comfort, and relieve stress and anxiety (probably for both of you). Your dog’s day will likely consist of a mixture of exercise, play time, mealtimes and rest, and if the core structure of their day is consistent then they’re likely to become more settled and content with the world around them. Most dogs like to know what to expect from their owners and their lives, and there are easy steps you can take to put good structure in place.
Let’s start with puppies (yay! puppies!). A solid routine can help your pup adjust to his new home, things like consistent toilet training and regular nap times/bedtimes will help soothe your puppy as they grow. Maybe you’ll fall into a routine such as going outside for toileting, followed by playing, then food, outside again for a toilet break and then settle down for a kip and repeat. Once they’re old enough to go out on short walks you can start to incorporate exercise (and some vitally important sniffing time) into your routine.
Be consistent in your approach to your house rules too, for example if your pooch has to stay off the furniture, then don’t occasionally let him sneak onto the sofa for a cuddle. You need to be clear about what’s allowed and what’s not in order for your dog to feel safe and secure in their home. Randomly allowing something that is normally forbidden will confuse your pup and may make him unsettled.
Try to feed at generally the same times of day, and in the same place if possible. Avoid any sudden changes in quantity or type of food, instead increase/decrease or change your dog’s diet gradually over a period of time. Softly softly, slowly slowly, is generally the best approach for most changes in a dog’s routine. A settled dog is a happy dog after all.
Your dog will thank you for creating a core structure to their day, but feel free to add variety to your activities within this broad routine. Swap out street walks for free runs sometimes, and add in some mentally challenging games at home to get their brains fired up. All dogs love to sniff, so factor in some food-related play where they have to use their sense of smell, and let them explore the outside world with their amazing noses. All this will help stop your dog getting bored and frustrated, and enriches their life in all sorts of ways.
Lastly, make sure your daily routine suits both you and your pup, and reap the rewards of a happy (structured!) relationship.