Why a Daily Dog Routine is Important & What it Should Look Like
Do dogs need a routine? How does a pet’s routine contribute to their wellbeing?
Many dog owners are surprised to learn about the benefits a daily schedule offers—to pet owners and furry friends alike. Here are some reasons to follow a routine, and how to set one up.
Do Dogs Like Routine?
A routine contributes to a dog’s physical and mental wellbeing.
Routines ensure a dog eats on a schedule that supports their metabolism and healthy digestion. A daily schedule also helps with potty training and keeps a dog “regular.” Plus, daily physical activity and playtime support a dog’s physical health.
In terms of mental and emotional health, a repeatable schedule lends a sense of security from knowing what to expect. If you leave the home, your dog knows you’ll return. If the food bowl is empty, the dog knows more food will be in the bowl at a certain time of day.
The Benefits of Establishing a Daily Dog Routine
In addition to the benefits to your furkid, a routine can benefit you as the pet parent.
Your dog’s playtime and bathroom habits remind you to get up and move or to take work breaks. Good sleep habits for your dog mean YOU will sleep better—without any middle-of-the-night, wet-nosed wake-up calls.
All that quality time together is also great for relieving stress—not to mention the special bond and friendship is one of the best things about owning a dog in the first place.
But how do you set up a routine for your dog? What do dogs need in their daily routine? Here are some things to consider.
A routine is crucial for helping puppies settle into their new home and learn important behaviors like potty training.
Consistency is key—and a daily schedule helps with consistency. Setting up good habits now can mean a well-behaved, well-adjusted dog for life.
Puppies’ routines tend to be more demanding than those of an adult dog. They must eat more often (3-4 meals per day rather than two) to support their metabolism and growth.
They also go to the bathroom much more frequently. But you can decrease the likelihood of accidents and speed up potty training by taking your young puppy outside (or to a potty pad in the home) every couple of hours when they’re awake, plus after meals and after they wake up from a nap.
Though puppies love to play, their bodies are growing. They’re more prone to certain bone and joint injuries. Several short playtime sessions are much better than longer walks or more strenuous exercise. Also, walks outside may be restricted until a puppy finishes all their vaccines, for their safety.
New Dogs In the Home
New puppies or adult dogs must adapt to a new environment, new people, and new smells and other stimuli. A routine helps give them a sense of security. They’ll know what to expect. And they’ll know their basic needs—like food, water, and companionship—are provided for.
Daily routines also help pets already in your home feel more comfortable with the “new kid.” When their usual activities remain unchanged, that tells them they are loved and will still receive all the food, attention, and fun activities they usually enjoy.
Adult dogs can thrive with a feeding routine, fresh water, regular exercise, enough potty breaks, and good sleeping habits—and of course, quality time with their favorite human!
However, the specifics of the routine depend on a dog’s age, breed, physical fitness, overall health, interests, and other factors.
Some senior dogs develop cognitive dysfunction, a condition similar to dementia. Big changes in the home can contribute to confusion and disorientation, whereas a familiar environment and routine can provide comfort and reassurance.
Though exercise is important for maintaining health and preventing muscle/joint pain, older dogs usually need less exercise than younger adults, with shorter walks and low-impact activities. Their food intake may also need to be adjusted to maintain their weight and body condition.
SEE ALSO: How To Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
How to Establish a Daily Routine for Your Dog
Every dog is an individual with unique needs. When setting up their routine, here are some important factors to consider…
Exercise is crucial to prevent dog obesity, a risk factor for health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and heart and respiratory diseases. However, the right amount and type of exercise varies from dog to dog. Depending on their age, breed, health, physical fitness, and interest, some furkids do fine with as little as 30 minutes of playtime per day. Others may need two hours of exercise or more per day.
In addition to physical activity, mental stimulation (think puzzle feeders, training, nose work, etc.) is important to a dog’s overall wellbeing, as is socialization and quality time with their human companion(s).
Most adult dogs do well with two meals per day, along with a couple of nutritionally appropriate treats or snacks. However, this varies from dog to dog. Miniature and teacup breeds may require more frequent small meals to prevent low blood sugar. Health conditions such as diabetes come with very specific feeding requirements and timings. And certain large breed dogs may need to avoid exercise an hour before or after their meal times, since they are more at risk for bloat and life-threatening stomach rotation.
Dogs should have clean, fresh water available at all times. Replace their drinking water daily—or more often if they’re very drooly, drop food or debris in their water, or empty their water bowl. The bowl should be washed at least weekly.
Most dogs need opportunities to go to the bathroom at least 3-4 times per day. Some need (and prefer) more than that.
While routine is important, it’s also important to have a bit of flexibility. Otherwise, a dog could develop anxiety if a change occurs (for example, a dog parent arriving home late or going out of town). So, try to maintain the “big picture” of your routine, such as a dog going outside right after you wake up. But it’s usually okay to vary the specifics a little. For example, maybe “right after you wake up” is a different time on weekends than it is on weekdays.
For more information and a personalized recommendation, set up a consultation with your pup’s veterinarian. It may take a little trial and error to discover the best routine for your household.
Sample Routine for Housetraining a New Puppy
Your puppy’s specific needs may be different from what’s listed here. But this is a good starting point for many youngsters.
Early morning: Take your puppy to their potty spot FIRST THING in the morning. Then have some playtime or quality time together. Offer your pup their breakfast, and make sure they have fresh, clean water. Once your pup has eaten, give them another opportunity to go to the bathroom.
Before starting work for the day: This is a good time for your puppy to settle down for a nap. Set up their crate (or safe room/playpen) with supplies such as water, a Kong or chewing toy with treats, a comfy place to sleep, and a potty area if you will be away for a while.
Lunchtime: Give your puppy a chance to go to the bathroom as soon as they wake up. Then feed them, offer some playtime, and take them to their bathroom spot once more. Refresh the water bowl.
After work/evening: Give your puppy another bathroom break. Offer plenty of interaction and playtime. If your puppy is old enough, evening can be a great time to get energy out during a walk or longer play or training session.
Dinner: Feed your puppy, then take them to their bathroom spot right after they eat. Refresh the water bowl if needed.
Bedtime: Give your pup another opportunity to use the bathroom before bed. Then take them to their crate or sleeping area and help them settle for the night. If your puppy can’t “hold it in” through the night yet, set up a potty area or set an alarm to take them outside if needed. Refresh the water bowl if needed.
Sample Routine for Housetrained Adult Dogs
Your dog’s specific needs may vary from what’s listed here. But this should give you some ideas to get started.
Morning: Give your dog an opportunity to go to the bathroom upon waking up. Then, offer breakfast and refresh their water bowl. Spend as much time together as you can before starting your day. Your pup may need to go out again for a quick potty trip 10-30 minutes after eating.
Late morning/early afternoon: Many dogs nap around this time, although if you are home they might want to interact with you. If you are able to take your dog to work with you, make sure you have their supplies and somewhere comfy for them to sit or nap.
Lunchtime: Even if they can hold it in longer, most pups prefer a midday bathroom break. If you can’t be with your dog due to work, consider hiring a dog walker to spend some time with your pup. Check their water bowl and refresh it if needed.
Afternoon/early evening: This is another common nap time.
Evening: For many pups and dog owners, this is the perfect time for a longer walk, extended playtime, training sessions, or more time bonding together. Many dogs also need a potty opportunity when you get home from work. Refresh the water bowl if needed.
Late evening and bedtime: Give your dog another opportunity to use the bathroom before bed. Avoid vigorous play before bedtime, otherwise it could interfere with your dog’s sleep routine. Try to keep the house calm and quiet before bed, so your dog gets used to sleeping at the same time you do.
Tips for Establishing a Routine If You Work All Day
If your job allows your pup to accompany you to work, that is ideal. But many workplaces don’t allow this. And some shy or nervous pups don’t do well with a busy office environment.
If you must be away from your dog during the day, consider arranging with a friend, family member, or roommate to spend time with your dog or at least give them a bathroom break. Hiring a dog walker or taking your pup to doggie daycare are also great options.
Tips for Helping Your Dog Adjust to a New Routine
GRADUAL changes are key here. Uprooting a dog’s entire routine at once makes stress and anxiety more likely.
So, if you have been working from home but must start a new job at an office, prepare your dog for this change gradually. Leave the house for an hour each day. Then increase to longer periods away. Taking a few weeks to acclimate your pup to your absence can help prevent separation anxiety and other issues.
Also, try to change just one thing at a time. For example, if you are moving to a new home, keep the same daily routine at your new location.
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety or another behavioral issue, seek help from a veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist to assist your pup during any times of transition.
Though setting up a schedule may initially seem overwhelming, it’s usually well worth the time.
The physical and emotional benefits to your pup—not to mention the benefits and convenience to you, the pet parent—of a daily routine can make life at home smooth and enjoyable for you and your furry friend alike.