Like children, I believe that dogs thrive when they have a routine and daily/weekly schedule that they can count on. This routine gives them confidence and comfort and caters to their necessities of life.
So what things should you include in your dog’s routine?
Sleep time : Although sleep requirements differ over the lifetime of your dog and there are also breed differences as far as sleep requirements, the general rule of thumb is that dogs require 16 to 18 hours of sleep per day. Like you, dogs will benefit from periods where they are left quietly to sleep without disturbance. In most homes, the dog will have a sleep period that coincides with its family. However, they will also need time during the day to sleep. If you work outside of the home, your dog will sleep for a good period of time when you are away. If you are at home during the day, either by yourself or with children and others in the house, I recommend that you either crate train your dog to give them quiet time or allow your dog the chance to define their special quiet place. Make an effort during the day to leave your dog undisturbed so they can sleep.
Water: Your dog should have clean water available at all times during the day. Keep the water bowl clean and change the water daily.
Food: “You are what you eat” applies to dogs as well as humans. Ensure your dog has a good quality diet (some owners choose a raw diet while others prefer a ready-made commercial food). I prefer a twice daily feeding schedule and larger breeds will need this to help manage against bloat. Some owners only feed once per day. Don’t forget to include treats in calculating your dog’s daily ration.
Toilet time: Most dogs need to urinate or defecate at least every 6-8 hours. If you leave your dog inside when you are at work, you will need to consider their toileting needs. When I am going out for the day, for example, Daisy gets a walk before I got out. I am then more confident that she will be comfortable for when I am away.
Play: Just like us and our children, dogs need a time to play. This gives them mental and physical stimulation. Choose toys appropriate for your dog’s temperament, set up play times with other dogs, go to the dog park to meet other dogs or consider doggie daycare. Arrange for a pet sitter to walk your dog during the day. There are many options for creating healthy and happy playtime for your dog.
A safe place: The den instinct is still there in our domesticated dogs. Make your home the safe place your dog deserves. Ensure food, drugs, and household chemicals are kept out of reach of your dog. Make sure your dog has its own place within the home (bed/crate or both!).
If circumstances change (such as what has occurred in Christchurch with changes to routine because of the earthquake and different work requirements), make a new routine for your dog. Dogs are able to accommodate short-term changes or interruptions to their schedule, but their behaviour and stress levels will change if you don’t find a new routine for them to follow.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand