February is Responsible Dog Ownership Month. Does your dog follow your routines or is your day dominated by your dog’s demands? When your dog starts pestering you, do you give in to his/her demands? Here we’ll talk about the importance of regular routines so your dog knows what to expect from you.
All of us have daily routines. Some of them may include your dogs, some don’t. Even though some of your routines don’t include your dogs, they may affect them in some ways. The ones that do include them become part of their routines.
Many of us get up in the morning to a cup of coffee with the coffee pot set the night before so we can get our caffeine fix as soon as possible. You may turn on the news or ramp up your iPad to catch up on what is going on in the world. You may let your dogs out first thing, or you may take them for a walk after breakfast. Either way they should know what to expect and let you start your morning peacefully.
Based on repetition, your dog should know your daily routines, including when you are going to let him out, where he should toilet and where he should sleep. He should know when he is going to get fed and the routine around that. For instance, do you consistently feed him in the same place and at the same time every day? Feeding your dog at the same time every day is important not just for his emotional and mental well-being, but also because his metabolism will get used to the pattern. When you pull out his leash, does he jump all over you or wait patiently by the door? Is he the first to run out the door or do you lead, having our dog follow you as you pass through the door first?
Just like babies, dogs need structure and routines. Dogs are creatures of habit. You should use your routines to teach your dog how to live with you versus the other way around. Dogs misbehave when their lives are unstructured and chaotic. Well-balanced dogs that are secure in their environment, routine and day-to-day lives find it much easier to adapt to changes or upsets that do come along from time to time, whether planned for or unexpected.
It is important that every time they demand your attention, you don’t give in. How many times has your dog nuzzled you while you are doing something because he is bored? Do you stop what you are doing or teach your dog to patiently wait? Although it is hard to not give in to their cute face, it is important your dog knows he can’t always get what he wants when he wants it.
Once your dog is trained properly, you shouldn’t have to give him as many instructions because he should know what to do. Your verbal interactions with him are important, consistently reinforcing his good behavior. However, he should know what to do without you having to say anything. Make sure your training commands are clear and not open to interpretation and are applied consistently.
Remember that dogs worry. They are happier when they know what is going to happen next. Routine makes their life more predictable, something all dogs crave. You can teach your dog how to live with you or he will try and teach you how to live with him. The former approach will make you both happier!
Vicki and Richard Horowitz, of Woodbridge, are dog behavioral therapists and trainers with Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog training company. For more information, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit www.dog-training-new-haven-ct.com.