By Saro Boghozian, Expert Family Dog Trainer
One of the most common mistakes that I see dog owners make is that they do not practice consistency with their dog. Consistency means doing the same thing over and over and this is very difficult to do. It is one of the most common issues that I have to address with dog owners and then try to resolve it along with other issues.
In the dog world consistency is routine and they thrive on it. It allows dogs to feel stable and comfortable. It originates from their working mentality.
There are two parts that creates instability. One, that the dog does not have consistency in his life and two, that the dog owner does not provide that consistency. Let’s look at the dog part first.
Dogs love to have a routine which creates predictability and therefore stability. This is very important for all dogs and it is the sole responsibility of the owner to provide that regular routine for his dog. Dogs don’t live at human speed. They like to have a simple life where it does not involve surprises. Most humans, of course, love surprises but dogs do not. One of the reasons dogs become stressed is because they do not have that necessary routine which ultimately causes the dog to become tense and unable to relax. A tense dog is a dog that will develop behavioural issues and that’s a good indicator he is stressed. A stressed dog is a dog that will end up with both behavioural and medical issues.
Let’s imagine that you take your dog every Tuesday at noon to a park. It does not matter whether it’s the same park or different park. Your dog gets used to the idea that he will be taken to a park every Tuesday at noon. Dogs are capable of setting an internal timer and know when that day and time has arrived. This is just one of the amazing facts about dogs. (There is a reason for this which is a completely different article in itself). Your dog can easily handle the activity of going to the park on Tuesdays at noon and because it has become a routine, there will be no stress involved. But if you change the day and time and take him to a park on Thursday evening instead, it will stress him simply because he was not expecting this activity and he was not planning to be in a park on this day and at this time of the day. Usually he is napping on Thursday evening and you messed up his routine. He will try to adjust to the new activity and go along with it. The stressful part for your dog would be whether to add this new day and the activity to his routine or not?!
Now, imagine how many times and how many other non-planned activities have happened or will happen in your dog’s life every day. It all adds up to the point that you have a dog that is stressed in many ways.
As an example, many of our playcare dogs attend our centre once or three times a week on a regular basis and the owners tell us that their dogs seem to have the uncanny ability to know the playcare day. Their dogs sit and wait at the front door on playcare days and then wait to be invited into the car. This is because the dogs are using their internal clocks and expect the routine. The reason we run our playcare based on regular attendance is because the dogs get used to the routine and it gets easier for them to manage playcare routines and activities never mind the fact they get to do something other than their regular at-home daily activities.
Now, let’s look at the human side that contributes to the instability in our dogs. Most of the time, we humans welcome change. We get bored easily. For instance, we buy the iPad, then we want to have the iPad 2, and then a few months later we want to have the newest iPad. We always want to have the next best thing. We don’t like having or doing the same thing.
Most people get tired and stressed from the work that they do because they are doing the same thing over and over which leads to boredom and predictability. Humans are also always in a hurry and want to see and get things done right away. Humans are impatient. Humans live in a fast world with fast interactions.
Dogs, in the meantime, are living in their own slower world at a slower speed of life.
I always suggest to a dog owner to provide a routine for his dog especially if the dog is beginning to exhibit an unacceptable behaviour or is becoming unbalanced. I usually plan a new, reasonable routine and then discuss it with the owner along with the suggestion it be followed through for two or three months. The owner is quick to agree with the new plan and claims that he can do this, but the reality is that he eventually gives up within a few days or weeks. He expected to see immediate results or, at least, within a few days. People don’t realize that the dog has been living without routine for months or even years. It is not possible to undo the unwanted behaviour in a week.
The fact is, for a dog owner (for any human for that matter) it is difficult to repeat the same thing over and over again at the same time and in the same place. Following the same routine for humans can be boring and not fun but they need to understand that it’s necessary to get past the physical part of it and focus on the psychological aspects of it and remind themselves of why they are doing what they are doing and for who they are doing it. Their dogs.
This applies to everything that involves your dog. The dog’s diet, his behaviour, his life style – are all in slow motion rather than human warp speed. You can’t change a dog’s diet for instance and expect to see results or changes in few days. It takes months for the dog’s body to rid itself of the toxins from old food and secondly it takes another few months for the new food to start having a positive impact on the dog’s body (this is a separate article as well). Most dog owners try a new food or a new diet then give up too quickly and stop the new diet in days or a week because they didn’t see immediate results or they thought that the dog was not reacting well.
If you want to either establish a new behaviour or change a behaviour or even relax your dog, you need to start creating a routine and stick to it for the rest of your dog’s life.
It is hard, dedicated work but it pays off in the end. You will help your dog become more relaxed as well as physically and mentally healthy. I find that those dog owners that establish and follow routines for their dogs are more successful in seeing the results they expected.
Here are some guidelines that I suggest you follow with your dog.
- Start with planning one routine at a time and follow through. Then add additional routines.
- Plan a one-week routine for your dog and stick to it. Don’t try to change the plan because you need to change your own routine.
- Don’t surprise your dog with activities; especially physical activities. When dogs are forced to do a physical activity, it becomes a stressful situation for them.
- Don’t surprise your dog with any activities that were not planed. For instance, just because you feel happy and good, don’t take your dog to a park to run or jog and expect him to feel the same way as you do. Your dog will go, of course, because he is a loyal animal and does not want to disappoint you.
- If you are trying to teach a new behaviour to your dog, repeat it once a day for two months. This creates stability and assurance that the behaviour has been established in your dog’s mind. It also helps to make you a more committed person and you will be able to accomplish success dealing with other issues your dog may have, regardless of what those issues might be.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://www.jonahsark.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/saro-boghozian.jpg[/author_image] [author_info] Saro received his expert dog trainer certification from The College of Canine Behavioural Science and is also a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers and does volunteer behaviour consultation with a number of dog rescue organizations. Saro’s play, praise and reward training classes are always in high demand as are his private one-on-one training sessions. Rather than using treats or gimmicks like shock collars, Saro’s training methods help owners understand how to use a dog’s natural intelligence to achieve success. [/author_info] [/author]