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Why Your Dog Needs a Routine at Every Stage of Life

Written for AKC by Sassafras Lowrey, CTDI


Dogs thrive on consistency and benefit from knowing what to expect. Routines can support every aspect of your relationship with your dog, from house training to grooming to preventing some behavioral challenges and boosting canine confidence.


Puppy Routines


Getting your puppy onto a regular routine for sleeping, eating, bonding, and potty training is key. Routines can help puppies adjust to their new homes and families. Give them opportunities to go outside and potty after they eat, wake up from naps, and play.


Routines for Adult Dogs

A routine can reinforce previously taught skills in adult dogs and help them learn new behaviors. Changes—such as travel, moving, new relationships, or family members coming into the home—are a part of life. But a routine based on exercise, enrichment, training, and grooming can allow dogs to be more confident and comfortable.


Senior Dog Routines

Older dogs can become confused or disoriented, even in familiar places. For these aging pets, having and maintaining a routine can be helpful in reducing anxiety.

Older companions also can and do love to learn new tricks. As is safe and appropriate, try to maintain as many of your dog’s training, exercise, and enrichment routines as possible. Routines can also help prevent regression in potty training, so be sure to incorporate regular and extra potty breaks into your senior dog’s routine.


Be Flexible

Too rigid of a routine can be counterproductive and lead to anxiety for you and your pet. For example, if you always feed your dog breakfast at exactly the same time, your pet is going to get antsy if you suddenly decide to sleep in. Instead of building a routine on a specific time, prioritize creating consistency around your pet’s training or exercise and where your dog eats their meals. This can help support pets without making them rigidly dependent on exact timeliness.


Establish Clear Expectations

A core part of having a routine for your dog is creating clear expectations and avoid contradicting rules. If you do not want your dog on the furniture, always enforce that. Pets will get confused if one member of the household lets the dog sleep on the bed and then someone else gets frustrated with the dog for being on furniture. When creating a routine for your dog, make sure it is consistent with all members of the family.


Training Routines

Even if you have no intentions to pursue sport training, it is still important to incorporate basic training skills into your routine. Be sure to establish and maintain a training routine; canine companions love to learn and thrive on opportunities to practice cues and learn new ones. If you take your dog to a training class once a week, be sure to practice the skills at home between sessions. Even just a few minutes each day can make a huge difference in learning and knowledge retention.


Grooming Routines

All dogs, regardless of breed, need regular grooming. Separate from coat care, you will want to regularly clean your dog’s ears (check with your breeder and vet for how frequently is appropriate), trim nails weekly, and brush teeth regularly. Brushing and bathing routines will depend on the breed.


Some long-coated dogs need daily brushing, while many short-coated companions can be brushed every week or once every few weeks to remove dead hair and debris. By making a grooming routine a regular part of your week, though, you will be aware of your pet’s health and condition; it will also allow animals to become more comfortable with being handled.


Preventing Behavior Issues

Many owners are now dealing with the fact their dogs are not comfortable home alone after the pandemic. If you are retired or work remotely, it is a good idea to add alone time into your dog’s routine. Make time daily or every few days to leave the house, even if is just to run an errand or get a coffee. This can reduce pets’ overall levels of anxiety over you leaving, as it will not be a novel experience.