Most of our family dogs have routines; some we have created for them, and others they come up with themselves over time. Dogs and children are very alike in many ways; consistency in their lives certainly helps with the household running smoothly. When the daily routine is predictable there is less chance of glitches that can occur, such as forgetting to give a dog their food or medications.
Abby – our senior lab – has many routines. My husband Ken gets up much earlier than the family does to head to his job. He feeds Abby her breakfast along with her thyroid and arthritis medication then lets her out to our garden for her bathroom break.
Being a lab, she still jumps up and down despite being almost thirteen while her food bowl is about to be placed on the floor. She eats in record speed and usually does a security walk around the perimeter of the garden to check that all was well during the night on our property, after gobbling up her food. Once back inside, she heads to her dog bed and blissfully falls back asleep. This behaviour is identical day after day.
I recently tried to switch her dinner feeding time after daylight savings. My goal was to feed her one hour later than usual. Her inner clock was adamant that the hour had not changed and would pace by me, or lay by my side if I was seated. If I stood up, she would leap up thinking that now was the time to bring on her food! I literally tried in fifteen minute increments each day, but gave up; eventually she was back on track with the new dinner hour.
Abby’s garden routine is very predictable too. She always samples the water in her bowl on our deck when let out, despite drinking water provided indoors. I think she likes to drink it as it gets nicely chilled in the evening with the lower temperature.
Often she will lie on our deck facing her beloved neighbor, Irene’s, garden. Irene is her Fairy Dog Mother; they both have a sweet love affair for each other being seniors. Abby lays in the sun facing Irene’s house and will patiently wait until there is an Irene sighting. When this happens she lets out a high yip and wags her tail while barking. Irene says hello to Abby and tells her that she will bring her a dog cookie. Abby’s routine is always the same. She goes to our side gate and, despite her age, jumps up on it to greet her Irene and have some tasty treats. Any boarding dogs have caught on, and have the routine down pat too.
My in-laws have kindly looked after Abby for us; she trained them to give her a cookie each time she came back in from our garden or from a walk. After we returned home, the routine continued. We cave in to her behaviour and give her treats a lot of the time, but we often break them into smaller pieces or give her lower-calorie options. Being a lab, she does not realize the difference.
Any dogs I walk regularly receive a dog treat on my arrival and another when returned home after a walk. If I ever happen to forget they all let me know! Some of the dogs have preferred seating in my van, a certain side window that is “theirs.” Cailley – a retriever -loves to lie across the rear bench seat and place her head on the arm rest. This is always her routine napping on the drive home from the off leash park. Fulton – a Goldie-Poo -had his routine throne, riding shot gun with me in the passenger seat. He was never keen on his privilege being given to another dog. Like a child he knew this was a special seat only given to one dog.
Recently my van was replaced and I decided to keep the dogs in the rear for their safety and to allow the passenger seat to remain less hairy or sandy for any person riding in my vehicle. There was some resistance from Fulton but he has assumed a new routine spot leaning on the side door. While sitting here he has a prime view into the front of the car and can see out the dashboard. This new spot has great visuals too, being able to see out the rear window or the sides!
I have a sweet Goldie-poo that boards with us named Bernie. He would often sit by our dog cookie jar after his dinner and patiently wait. The jar is located by our back door so I assumed he wanted to go out and would let him out. I told his owner about this routine and she laughed and said that he always gets a cookie after his dinner at their house. I have noted this to keep his routine similar while he’s boarding. I always ask for each dog’s daily routine but this was a slight oversight. Another dog that boards, River – a Golden Retriever – gets a special treat before her bedtime so we copy this routine to have River feel at home while on her “holiday.”
I have noticed many smaller dogs routinely eat one piece of their dog kibble at a time. Often, they take one piece out of their bowl and put it on the floor or a rug to eat from a different location!
Abby had toe surgery last fall and could not be walked for many weeks. Initially, she would hobble to our front door seeing that I was heading out. She would stand there with the saddest eyes pleading for her walks. She would head butt the leash if it was hanging on a door knob, so I put it away to ease her desire to go for a walk.
She did have to go to our vet for bandage changes twice a week so this confused her even more being able to go on leash sometimes, but not other days. After about ten days she would watch me head out the door and not even attempt to tag along. She would lie down and give a huge sigh. Thankfully this was just temporary for her.
We give clues daily that give triggers to our dogs for their routine, but other times they create their own routine themselves. This illustrates how similar humans and dogs often are despite being different species.
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