How to get your dog into a routine

Our dogs thrive on routine. So, whether they were part of the family pre-lockdown or joined during it, they will have got used to this new one. While you being at home more may have been a welcome change, returning to some sort of normal may not be.  

Although ‘normal’ is likely to look slightly different, of course. You may find you’re heading back to the office for just a few days and continuing to work from home for the rest of the week. But, as things start to change around them, you want to make sure their routine stays the same.  

To do this, the days you are at home should be as similar (as possible) to the days that you’re not.  

Why is a routine so important for dogs?  

If dogs are used to the same things happening at the same time each day, they can get worried by change. A routine means that they can predict events, which is so important for their wellbeing and helps to avoid them feeling anxious.   

An established routine can also help avoid behaviour problems. For example, if a dog knows that a certain point in the day is ‘naptime, they are likely to settle nicely as they know nothing else will happen during that time. If there is no set routine, they would not be able to predict that they are expected to settle during this time, which may cause frustration with the lack of interaction or activity 

It is particularly important for young dogs (especially those up to four months) who soak up their surroundings like a sponge. With a routine, they learn what to expect and when. They then carry this understanding of the world and their relationship with humans through into their adult life. 
 

How to create a routine for your dog  

You want to create and stick to a daily routine that looks the same for your pooch, even when it changes for you.  

You’ll need to consider:  

  • Food  
  • Walk
  • Going to the toilet 
  • Play 
  • Training 
  • Rest/relaxation 
  • Sleep 
  • Hanging out together 

  
You’ll need to adapt it to your personal circumstances. But here’s an example daily routine you and your dog can follow:   
 

Morning 

You may not have to be up quite as early on the days you are working from home. But to keep to the same morning routine with your dog before work, you should feed and walk your pooch at around the same time every morning.  

Then, they will be ready to settle down, so you can get on with your work if you are at home and not worry about them if you’re heading out to the office.  

It’s important they have time away from you even when you are at home, to help them get used to spending time alone. This will make it easier for them when you are not there and help to avoid separation anxiety from developing.  

Likewise, it’s essential to give your pup plenty of time to rest throughout the day. Enable them to do this, by ensuring they have a cosy bed or den area of their own, where they can snooze undisturbed.   

 
Lunchtime  

It’s time to take a break, which is the perfect opportunity to give your dog some attention. They’ll no doubt be ready for this after a morning snoozing in their doggy den. It will also fit in nicely with your schedule when you are in the office, as this is a good time to pop home. If that’s not possible, you could have someone check in on your pooch or organise a dog walker for around this time.  

Firstly, make sure they go outside and to the toilet. Then, this is the ideal opportunity for training, playtime or enrichment activities. Mix it up each day to keep it fun and interesting.  

 

Afternoon  

It’s time to go back to work. So, leave pup to carry on playing with their toys by themselves. Again, it’s good to get them used to their own company and not rely on yours.  

Before you head back to your desk, give them a long-lasting chew or a puzzle toy to keep them entertained. They may then head back to their doggy den to continue snoozing, but make sure they have the option.  

Like you did in the morning, encourage them to spend the afternoon in a different part of the house to you. That way you can concentrate and not get distracted by your pup. At the same time, they won’t notice the difference as much when after their lunchtime play, you head out of the house and not back to your desk in the spare room.  

Of course, you may not want to be apart the entire time when you don’t need to be. But just make sure this is factored into some parts of the day and that you teach your pup to settle. That way, even if they are with you, they will relax when you have an important call to make.   

 

Evening  

The evening is another perfect opportunity to spend some quality time with your pooch. Start by feeding them. Again, around the same time you would be arriving home from work, even on the days you are there. Give them time for their food to settle (around one to two hours) and then head out on a walk. Once back, you can hang out together. This may be playing, or it could be snuggling up on the sofa.  

 
Create a routine that works for you and your pooch. Then keep to it as closely as you can. You may even want to create a dog daily schedule chart so that everyone in the house can follow it. That way your dog knows exactly what to expect and when, whether you are in the next room or out at the office. It can also include a feeding schedule for your dog that can be ticked off when it’s done. As different people may be in and out of the house at various times, it’ll ensure they don’t get a double dinner or miss out on a meal.   

 
But, of course, when not working, you may well take your pooch out and about with you. Find out how to prepare your pup for days out as well as making a schedule for your dog when they’re at home.