Dogs do well when they know what to expect in each day, which begins with waking up. Some of the reason for this is that dogs are a pack animal and will instinctively want to know what’s going on in their pack, which is their immediate family, and the extended pack, which is the home/their territory. Dogs do well knowing, for example, that the mailman comes at a particular time, and they will warn the owners that there is an outsider or the environment has changed. A dog having a routine will often be calmer. There are times however that a dog’s routine should be changed up. Typically, this is times in which a dog guesses on what you want i.e. anticipating commands.
If you were to put a plant in the middle of the room, your dog may act strangely because you’ve changed the environment. In regards to routine, this doesn’t mean you should allow your dog to dictate how the day goes. It’s important to receive signs from the dog, such as, “I’m hungry” or “I need to go out,” but if they become pushy, then store that information in your head and take no action yet or you will condition your dog to become more and more pushy.
There are always exceptions to the rule that the dog doesn’t decide when things happen. For example, my six month old dog Zeus has been taught to let me know when he needs to go to the rest room, but if he’s been laying down, as he gets up, he will have a few tinkles from a lack bladder control, because he is a puppy and is still forming those muscles. Don’t punish, but be sympathetic and understanding. The dog warns me he wants to go out, but just doesn’t have the bladder control because he’s a puppy. As long he’s not extremely demanding, I will immediately let him out when he tells me it’s time.
A typical daily dog routine starts with a potty break and extends to things like feeding and even a morning walk. I myself Ryan Matthews have a client who used to feed his dog at 3:00 p.m. every day. Recently, I talked with him and he told me the dog now needs to eat at 1:00 p.m. That is an example of a dog who has conditioned his owner by being pushy to get what he wants when he wants it. It is important for the owner to set the routine and stick with it, not catering to a pet’s demands or behavior.
To counterbalance a dog’s attempt to change the routine through excitable or pushy behavior, you will want to keep them on their paws, so to speak. For example, if your dog gets excited when you open the closet door where the leash is held, at the time you normally walk it, desensitize that overly excited behavior by simply opening the door and walking away. The struggle for me as a dog trainer is that people like to see their dog in that excitable state. Similar to how parents love to see their children excited at Christmas, dog owners often like to see their dog seemingly that happy or excited, but it’s not good for the dog nor is it a favorable behavior to tolerate, and even promote.
Food and walking are the two main daily routines where dog owners need improvement in their conduct of that activity. When it comes to initiating a routine activity, avoid asking the dog if it wants to participate, such as saying, “Do you want to go on a walk?!” as you are holding the leash, often pausing for the perceived answer. This creates the amped up condition that you will regret later.
The way to initiate an activity so that excitable behavior is curtailed is to be nonchalant in the approach, without drawing attention to the upcoming event. For example, when going on a walk, casually go to where the leash is held without drawing the dog’s attention. If the dog notices and becomes excited, jumping up and down, as may often be the case, then stop and go back to what you were doing before until the dog settles down. This is a time to intentionally pause and observe the dog’s response. When the right behavior is displayed, then pick up the leash again and attempt to put it on. For a better understanding of the process I just explained, watch my World Of Dog Training eCourse “Leash Pulling”.