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Routine vs Unpredictability | Cambridge Puppy Training

Updated: Mar 5, 2020

I was reading something recently relating to establishing a routine with your puppy/dog. The general view was that a predictable routine can be damaging, not beneficial, to your dog.

The feeling was that whilst routine can be useful for US as owners, it can leave a dog in somewhat of a nightmare situation when the routine suddenly changes ie. a break from the norm or series of unexpected or unpredictable events. This in turn may lead to feelings of frustration, over-arousal, over-excitement, boredom or reactivity (the list goes on!), purely because the dog can not or does not know how to deal with the change. A dog can not make peace with change, if it has not experienced it before. If a dog brought up on a strict routine is expected to suddenly deal with and accept odd changes in routine from time to time, can they?? If a dog is raised on predictability of events, how is it to cope with unpredictable occurences? And, does not predictability give a dog a sense of security? If it can predict future events fairly reliably, surely this builds the foundations of a settled disposition and a life free of unease and anxiety?

This 'break from the norm' could be anything from different walking times, different feeding times, variation in separation from owner, anything at all you can think of! Anything that breaks from the normal day to day routine. From something small like moving a dogs bed to a different location, to something HUGE like suddenly the owner working full time, for example.

Could this lead to displays of behavioural 'problems'? What is your routine and what have you found? I don't think I am too predictable in my habits with my dog and I like to think/hope she deals with variations in routine quite well. BUT....she's not the most steady dog in the world and I must say, her confidence isn't through the roof. What are YOUR experiences? Do you have a very set and rigid routine that doesn't generally change? And does your dog cope with sudden unpredictability well?

Maybe, just maybe, it's all about balance! A routine to cater to your lifestyle (I mean we all have to work at certain times, don't we?!), with some basic unpredictability thrown in. Possibly a change in your walking route to encompass a wide range of activites, sometimes a walk in the fields, other times a trip to a cafe. A change in your walking time occasionally, feeding times half and hour before/after the 'norm' randomly, altering your feeding methods sometimes, you could be as imaginative as you like!

One thing I do feel quite sure about, a dog must grow up with occasional unpredictability to accept it well (usually). I would not assume an 8 year old dog who has adopted an established and set routine for it's lifetime would suddenly accommodate unexpected changes and the emergence of sudden and unpredicatable events, so be aware!

Do let me know your thoughts, I'm always keen to hear others experiences! :)

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