My lovely wife, June, also a dog behavioral therapist, often tells clients, "Dogs are just like babies – they like routine."
While her conclusion is undoubtedly true, the reasons supporting this premise do differ.
Human babies, for example, although eventually growing to be much more sophisticated than their canine counterparts, do, initially, develop far more slowly, typically taking an average of 7 dog years before they can walk. So, the babies' need for routine, is essentially to establish and aid their sleep and metabolic patterns, leading to less distress, and therefore also a more contented time for their parents.
With dogs, however, there is an extra dimension, and it is this – dogs worry!
This is instinctual in a dog, just like many of their other behaviors, dating back to the days when they lived in packs, often using caves for shelter and security. And what they worry about most is "What's going to happen next?"
Routine, of course, dissolves this worry, as dogs learn by association. For example, they see their owner putting on a certain pair of shoes, and they know they are going for a walk. So, one of the best things any owner can do for their dog is establish routines for them.
Of course, the pressures and sophistication of modern-day (human) life mean that it is not always possible or practical to do exactly the same things at exactly the same times every day, but we should all strive to build as much routine into our dogs' lives as possible, as this will definitely lead to them (and hence us) becoming less stressed. As Canine Corner has stated many times before, around 80 percent of the dogs we are called out to train are suffering from stress, to some extent or another.
Only last night I took a call from one of our clients who is temporarily exiled to New Hampshire where her husband is recovering from back surgery. She was concerned that her dog had "forgotten" all the training he had so readily absorbed here in Naples over the preceding months, and sought our advice.
The first thing I had to was reassure her that her dog had not forgotten any of the training he had been given. This assurance, I could confidently give her from nearly 2,000 miles away, without witnessing the dog's current behavior, simply because I knew her dog to be intelligent, and dogs do have good memories.
I asked her to view the world through her dog's eyes. Here he was, comfortably established in a routine in Naples, where he knew where everything was, what followed each family member's action(s) and was regularly exercised by both husband and wife.
All of a sudden, he finds himself in a new location, which is substantially colder, where the husband can no longer walk him, where the wife has to (quite naturally) spend more time attending to her husband's needs, where there is a completely new range of smells, and where his previous routine had been virtually abandoned. This is no criticism of his owner, but is it really any wonder he thought "the old rules" no longer applied?
When I put it to her like that, she completely understood, and after we discussed one or two techniques of how to explain to him that the old rules still do apply, we then agreed on the need to establish a set of routines for their New Hampshire home. Knowing how dogs think, this should fairly quickly help him fall back into line, and simultaneously have his confidence in his own pack leader(s) restored.
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Colin Glass is the dog behavioral therapist and master trainer in Collier County for Bark Busters, the world's largest dog training company. Bark Busters trainers, who have trained more than 500,000 dogs worldwide, are renowned authorities in correcting dog behavior with all-natural, dog-friendly methods. Bark Busters training is the only service of its kind that offers a written lifetime guarantee. For more information, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit www.BarkBusters.com.