The Benefits of Structure and Routine for Your Pet
It would be silly to think of a cat pulling out their planner to make their preparations for the week and I’m sure you’ve never seen a dog checking the clock before letting you know if it was dinnertime. No, pets don’t plan out their days on schedule, but they do have a natural understanding of routines and are sure to notice and respond to any you have in your home.
Part of this is related to circadian rhythms and another part simply has to do with our smart animals’ abilities to perceive. Your dog notices when you put on your shoes before leaving the house and also how you pick up their leash before they get to go on a walk. Your cat knows when to be waiting by their food bowl if you always wake up and feed them at the same time every morning. As creatures of habit, your pet will learn your schedule and thrive under a set routine.
In fact, there are many specific benefits to incorporating a routine into your pet’s life. It makes things easier for you as the owner, as a pet that knows what to expect may be better behaved. It also may even make your pet happier as a structure in place reduces stress.
Why Your Pet Wants a Routine
It’s true that having some sort of routine in place could benefit both you and your furry friend. This doesn’t even have to be a precise schedule or anything complicated. It can be beneficial enough to just have some simple structure to your days.
Helps Them Feel Safe and Secure
For one, having a routine in place can keep a pet from stressing out. Your dog doesn’t need to feel anxious that they might not get a next meal, and therefore may have less food aggression if they know you will feed them every single day. Your cat will not need to worry about you returning home or what might change in their environment next when there is a structure in place that they can depend on. For both dogs and cats, structure simply allows them to feel safe and secure.
Good for Training
Absolutely crucial when you’re housetraining a dog is having a routine. It simply becomes so much of an easier process when you stick to regular bathroom times for your pup. Set up a schedule that will allow your dog to go out at least every eight hours, but especially right after they wake up, right after eating, and right before bed. As your dog gets used to this structure and learns that there will always be a next time he can go out, you might find yourself dealing with fewer accidents.
While perhaps less necessary, routine may also be useful for other types of training. Consistency is the key here. If you’re constantly changing things up, how can you expect your pet to learn?
Makes Sure None of the Important Stuff is Left Out
Structure sets a pet’s mind at ease precisely because they then don’t have to worry about missing out on anything. Instead, organizing your pet’s care and other activities can help to ensure that you don’t leave anything out. With a schedule, even if it’s a pretty relaxed one, you can find time to meet your animal companion’s needs for food, bathroom breaks, play and petting, exercise, and sleep. You may even manage to routinely fit in some training sessions with your dog or cat. Having it all on the daily schedule like this will keep anything from being forgotten.
How to Implement Structure in Your Pet’s Life
As mentioned earlier, following routines comes natural to dogs and cats. There really isn’t much that will need to be done to get them used to a change, as they want to follow a routine.
Pets are constantly watching and learning our routines. If you have a particular spot where you tend to spend your time at the house, your dog knows it and will run there first when looking for your attention. If you come home from work around the same time every day, your cat knows it and will be waiting and meowing for you at the door the minute you arrive. Simply put, your pet already knows what routine is.
Getting used to a more structured lifestyle doesn’t have to be difficult for you. A daily routine doesn’t have to be anything complicated. And, in fact, it really shouldn’t be.
Take It Gently
It’s actually really important to not get too into scheduling out you and your pet’s day. They do get used to routines, but this also means that they may worry if something is forgotten or change is otherwise required. If your dog or cat gets too used to a set way of doing things, they may not be able to handle the change that comes their way at all.
For this reason, you should purposefully change things up every now and then. Your cat might not get fed exactly at 7:30 every morning, but they only need to know they’ll get fed every morning. Your dog might not get his walk as soon as you get home, but he’ll be happy to know walk time will come eventually. Every day doesn’t have to be exactly the same. It’s just useful for them to be able to get a sense of what can be expected.
Set a Stable Structure in Place
For some pets, you may be able to really keep things quite flexible and just consider set routines to simplify specific activities. Other pets may truly need a stable structure to manage an anxiety condition or keep their required medications on a set schedule. As the owner, you know your pet better and anyone and can understand best of all how to give them what they require.
Some things to keep in mind for implementing a structure are feeding times, training periods, times for exercise or play, and sleep schedules or bedtime routines. Keep your specific pet in mind as you structure these daily parts of their lives.
Ease New Changes Into Place
Naturally, it is impossible for things to always stay perfectly stable. Sometimes, things will be a little different than what they usually are. Occasionally, as in the case of a home move or change of job, entire daily routines may have to change or in some way be adapted.
Some pets will be able to handle changes that come into their lives, but others may struggle with any such situation. Of course, animals don’t always show anxiety or distress the way that humans do. Some things you’ll want to look out for if there have been any sudden changes in your home are new behavioural problems, a pet forgetting their training, and signs of anxiety such as panting, yawning, and hiding.
To possibly avoid these issues, you can take some steps to make an adjustment easier on them. For one, make sure that you’re always mixing up their routine so that a few minutes off won’t freak them out too much. Additionally, approach any big changes gradually.
If you know disruption is coming, you can prepare your dog or cat by introducing change in incremental steps. If you’ve been working from home but will soon be leaving the house every day, for example, you might start leaving for longer periods of time every day. Whenever you step out, it can help to offer your pet a favourite toy or treat. This will help them get used to you being out of the house and also have that experience associated with something positive.
A Stable Life With a Furry Friend
Knowing how to approach structure and routine for your pet’s life can make caring for them just a little bit easier. Pets love knowing what to expect, but this means that changes may be difficult for them. If you know how to ease your pet into new routines though, they will stay perfectly happy.
Pets recognize the structure of our home, even though we aren’t super structured. When we leave for a weekend trip, they know something is different!
I totally agree! They know, even before you do sometimes.