Covid-19 has destroyed the way we live our lives. And, by proxy, it has destroyed our routine.
How often do we think about the importance of routine to our dogs, though?
Without knowing it, we have built in routines to our dog's day to day life. If you wake up at the same time every morning, that is a routine they will know. If you feed them the same time every day, that is a routine. If you tend to walk them between twelve and two in the afternoon, that is a part of that routine.
Some dogs cope exceptionally well with changes in routine. If you can build unpredictability into their lives at an early age, that can solve lots of problems down the road.
But for our dogs who thrive on routine, that disruption can throw their lives into disarray.
Lots of our behaviour students, whether they are just starting working with us or have been with us a few months are reporting changes in their dogs. They are more reactive or nervous then they were before the lockdown occurred.
There are a multitude of reasons for this, but routine change is most likely a massive part of them.
Routines are a predictable pattern of behaviour, and with that comes a feeling of safety. If we always know something is going to occur then we don't have to worry about it.
But if that predictability suddenly disappears, then that safety net goes with it. And this can lead to increased anxiety.
The lockdown has thrown our routines out the window. We are home more, other family members are home more often, your dogs are unable to go where they used to go.
As such, we need to try and build those routines back into their lives. Especially if they are having a negative effect on their behaviour.
Here are a few small things you can begin to do with your dog to create some stability in their lives:
- Feed your dog the same way each morning (specific enrichment toy/scatter feeding in garden).
- Practice leaving your dog as you normally would if you were going to work (putting them in a different room or going for a walk without them).
- Keep dog's bedtime routine the same even if you go to bed a bit earlier/later than normal.
The world will return to normal in a few months. But, for now, keeping a bit of routine might be the difference between an anxious and a settled dog.