Ditch the Routine

Is your dog waiting at the window when you come home each night? 

Does your dog run laps round the house when walk time rolls around? 

Is your dog waiting by the kitchen cupboard when it is time for tea? 

For animals that don’t wear a watch, dogs seem to have an uncanny ability to be able to tell the time. As anyone who has ever encountered the wrath of a dog late for its morning constitutional will attest, our canine friends are masters of a schedule.

But how can that be? 

 How do they know? 

Dogs are master predictors. They read the rhythm and routine of the day and know when the events of their daily lives are due to occur. 

The Rhythm of Life 

Predictability makes humans feel safe and secure. That’s why we typically organise our lives round routine. Routines also save us from expending valuable energy thinking about what we are going to do next. Dogs do not have such requirements. Dogs can live quite happily in the moment. They don’t need to be anticipating what is coming next. That is not their responsibility. That is a role we undertook to take care of on domestication. But dogs will gladly take it on if you let them. That can lead to a dog that has more on its plate than it can handle and that is when problems can occur. 

It is your job to feed your dog, but when your dog is watching the clock, it becomes his responsibility to remind you and that can lead to whining and pestering. 

It is your job to answer the door, but when your dog makes it his job to answer every knock, that can lead to barking and jumping up on visitors. 

It is your job to drive to the park, but your dog turns navigator and alerts you to every turn from three miles away by yowling until your ears are bleeding.

That is not a relaxed dog and that is not a relaxed life. 

Dispelling those myths:

  • Dogs need to get out of bed at the same time every day - myth
  • Dogs need fed at the same time every day - myth
  • Dogs need a walk every day - myth 
  • Dogs need to practice the same training exercises over and over - myth
  • Dog needs routine - huge myth 

There are many benefits to your dog in living a routine free life. Dogs that live out with a routine are generally happier and more content. They do not have the opportunities to make the same pairings that can cause behavioural issues as their routine led counterparts. They are typically more able to adapt to new environments and situations and cope better with these. They can visit new places and do new things without anxiety arising. They can cope with novelty and are just generally more relaxed. They are able to get on with living in the moment, leading their #bestdoglife.

 So what are you waiting for? Ditch that routine! 

 Shake it Up! 

If the thought of abandoning your dog’s daily routine has you breaking out in a cold sweat, don’t worry! It is much easier than it sounds. The following areas are great places to start with Ditching the Routine…

Feeding

Feeding is a massive area where people love to adhere to routines. How many people give their dog the same brand dog food, not just day in and day out, but for their whole lives? Served in the same, bowl, in the same spot in the kitchen, with the same routine. No wonder dogs beg. PLEASE give me something different! 

Sticking to a routine of feeding leads to so much missed opportunity to provide stimulation and enrichment and for bond building with your dog. Why not use your dog’s food for training? Dogs love to work for their food - let them learn to earn, using their daily food allowance as a reward, or sprinkle their kibble into the grass in your garden for a fun breakfast game. Your dog will work its brain and body and have massive fun - all while having breakfast! You don’t get that from a bowl. 

Check out our Ditch the Bowl eBook for more ideas on how to ditch the feeding routine and make food fun for your dog. 

Walking

Same time, same place, same destination, same route, same people, same environment, same dog treats, same collar and lead. You go through it without even really realising you’ve done it. 

The necessity of a daily walk is the most persistent of all the routine myths that plagues dog owners and their dogs. Your dog does need stimulation and exercise to remain healthy - and walks can check these boxes nicely. But sometimes a walk isn’t what your dog needs. And going at the same time every day can create anxiety in your dog surrounding the event that negates the benefits that come from heading out. Also, if the walk itself is stressful for your dog, any benefits are quickly lost. 

So, ditch the routine:

  • Avoid heading out at the same time every day
  • Don’t walk if your dog is not mentally or physically in a good place for it
  • Don’t just walk - play games and have fun - interact with each other and build your bond
  • If your dog has had a stressful day or week, stay home and play some games instead

Travel 

Go for a ride in the car and come home without going anywhere. Don’t always get in the car just because you are going to the park or the vet. Practice arriving at places then head home so you don’t have a dog that goes wild every time you pull into a car park. 

Let your dog hang out in their crate in the car in your driveway with a stuffed Kong to chill for a bit. 

On return, practice unloading your car while your dog chills out in their crate. 

 

Being in the car doesn’t always have to mean you are going somewhere. And if you are going somewhere it doesn’t always mean you are getting out. And if you are driving home it does not mean that your dog is getting out straight away. Ditching the routine is key to creating car calmness! 

Training 

Do you have a training schedule? Do you always train at the same time, on the same day, in the same place, in the same way? Not only is that incredible boring for you and your dog, but you are unlikely to get good results. 

Without fresh learning and fresh ideas, your training regime will stagnate and your achievement will plateau. Learn some new games, play old games in novel places, find a different way to reward your dog, teach them something new - all of this builds confidence, optimism and flexibility and will lead to real life results out with training. 

Have a pot of your dog’s daily food allowance readily to hand in your living room so that you can have a quick game while the adverts are on on your favourite tv programme. Quick game of Funder in the kitchen while the kettle is boiling? Sounds like fun to me. Or why not play your dog’s favourite game in an entirely new environment? Now that’s going to turbo charge your training. 

Fancy trying something new? Check out our website for our full range of DVDs, books, and online courses to give your training a boost. 

Ditch that Routine

If you want to have a dog that can adapt and fit in with anything that the day throws at them, rather than always keeping tabs on what is coming up, ditch that routine. A dog that can cope with novelty with confidence and ease will lead a more relaxed, happier, calmer, longer life. Switching it up and ditching the routine will give your dog a daily life filled with joy and WOW moments. You’ll have more opportunities to enjoy life together and to build your bond. 

So tear up the rule book, ditch that routine, and go and have fun. 

 

32 comments

  • Hi I am happy to read that I am doing a lot of what you mention, but also learned few tips. My question though is what do you suggest for a small breed that barks at every dog; will run up to dogs barking, bark in car at dogs, walks, parks, hikes, trails, knock at door, someone going by with dog…no matter? Is rare she will let a dog go by without making a sound, is not necessary. Have tried some things but nothing seems to last!!!!

    Shelly
  • How do I stop my dog barking madly when the door bell goes or he hears a car pull up or people walking past the house .

    Cherie
  • Soooo glad you’ve posted this and confirmed my actions! Never had a rigid routine with my dogs, donkeys or horses (ummmm or my children lolol) and its always helped them be very adaptable. I hate to make a rod for my own back, or my dog’s back! Flexible living all the way!

    Vicki Bennett
  • Thank you this has helped me with my new puppy

    Sylvia
  • Lots of very good advice. I try to ‘mix it up’ as much as I can, but sometimes the work that pays the bills dictates a routine. My younger BC’s react positively to a bit of variety. My rescue dog finds comfort in a daily routine, it’s what he needed after a rubbish start to his life. So not one size fits all.

    Paul Young

Leave a comment

Name .
.
Message .