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Routines and consistency are a crucial part of training your dog. But what should you do if your schedule changes, and you need to shift your dog’s routine? Dogs thrive with routines, and knowing what to expect can help them to feel more secure. However, life happens, and we can’t always make the world completely predictable for our dogs.

If you find yourself needing or wanting to change your dog’s routine, here are some tips to help them adjust.

Helping Dogs Adapt to Routine Changes

Dogs thrive on routine, so it can be difficult for them when their schedules change. Dogs who are struggling to adjust to routine changes may become stressed or anxious. This stress can manifest in a variety of ways, such as destructive behavior, pacing, or restlessness.

If you know that you’ll need to significantly change your dog’s routine, it’s best to slowly introduce those changes to help your dog adapt. For example, if you typically walk your dog in the mornings but have to change to evening walks, slowly shift the time of day you walk your dog. Making this time shift over a series of days or weeks, pushing their walk back by small periods of time, will help your dog be more comfortable with a new schedule.

When changing your dog’s routine, try to keep other aspects of your dog’s life as consistent as possible. If you’re switching up the time you feed your dog, try your best not to change other aspects of your dog’s life, such as walks or training sessions. By maintaining consistent routines in some areas, your dog will likely struggle less with shifts in timing schedules. Dogs love clarity. When they know what to expect from us, they’ll be more relaxed even as some aspects of the routine are changing.

Vizsla puppy laying down on the couch.
Anthony Brawley Photography/Moment

When Would You Change Your Dog’s Routine?

There always will be times when we need to change things up for our dogs. If at any point you’re struggling with making your dog’s routine fit into your schedule, it’s a good indicator that it’s time to change or adjust the routine. Similarly, your dog’s daily routines will likely need to shift if you have external commitments or schedule changes.

Routine changes also tend to happen seasonally for most dogs and their owners. In the summer, you’ll likely be walking your dog earlier or later in the day to avoid high temperatures and make walks more comfortable and safer for your dog. However, in the winter months, people usually walk their dogs later in the morning or earlier in the evening to walk during daylight. School or work schedule changes are also times when you may need to adjust your dog’s routine so that you can keep up with all your commitments.

©Grigorita Ko -

Ensuring Your Dog’s Needs Are Met

When making a change to your dog’s routine, it’s important to make sure you’re still meeting your dog’s basic needs. This means ensuring that your dog is getting enough food, water, opportunities to go to the bathroom, and mental and physical exercise. Providing physical and mental enrichment helps our dogs to better adjust to routine changes and be more resilient. Dogs who lead physically and mentally enriched lives are also less likely to display excessive barking and other challenging behaviors resulting from stress or boredom. But remember, just letting your dog out into a backyard isn’t the same as structured exercise time like playing fetch or taking your dog on walks.

You can also add more mental enrichment for your dog by providing puzzle toys or playing and training together. Spending time practicing tricks or basic obedience skills each day can help your dog be fulfilled and less stressed by other changes in their routine. If your routine is shifting in such a way that you may not be able to provide your dog with enough exercise and opportunities to get outside to relieve themselves, consider hiring a dog walker.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel standing next to its food bowl at home. Approved by Denise Flaim. Getty Images #152991944 Consistent routine
AVAVA/Getty Images

Changing Routines to Build Adaptability

While dogs do well with routines, it can also be helpful to introduce variety into your dog’s daily life. For example, if you feed your dog at the same time every day, they’ll likely develop an association that a particular time means when they should be fed. This association isn’t necessarily a problem, but what happens if you’re running late and can’t feed your dog exactly when they expect? At that point, dogs may become distressed when the routine suddenly changes.

Adding schedule variance into your dog’s daily life can help dogs become more adaptable and prevent dogs from becoming too attached to a routine. Assuming your dog has no medical conditions requiring medication or feeding at an exact time, it can be useful from a training and behavior perspective to slightly change when you feed your dog daily. You can also switch up how you feed your dog, alternating between different food bowls or puzzle feeders. By switching up when and how you feed your dog, they’ll be less likely to become attached to a fixed schedule. These slight changes can also help your dog to be less stressed in the event of a more significant change to their routine.

Related article: Expert Tips to Help Soothe Your Dogs Anxiety
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