Companion animals truly are creatures of habit and, as a result, they really do benefit from a regular routine, especially in light of the manic nature of our own lives.
While we’re rushing from appointment to appointment we may not even notice how susceptible to stress and change our pets are. More so than we could ever imagine, in fact. And, in an attempt to cope with this stress, they may start to develop unwanted behaviours. A great way to limit the stress factors that go unnoticed by us, is to give your pet a routine; because being able to anticipate and prepare for life is a sure fire way to build confidence and ensure feelings of security and certainty.
Here are ways to give your pet stability:
1. Regular feeding times and location:
Being consistent with your pets feeding will not only contribute to a daily routine, but will also aid you in ensuring they maintain a healthy weight and receive a complete and balanced diet. Feeding a brand that is a member of the PFI (Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa) will give you the peace of mind that you’re feeding the best your budget can afford. Feed them in an area where they feel safe and can eat undisturbed.
2. Regular exercise:
Aside from the health benefit to you and your dog, exercise also offers an opportunity for exploring, sniffing, socialisation and bonding with you. Although it is difficult to always maintain the same time for daily exercise, routine can still be applied, by following the same pattern leading up to the daily walk, so your dog can anticipate what’s coming next.
3. Their own “stuff”:
To add to feelings of security, pets will benefit from an area, crate or room that is “theirs”, containing their beds and play things, where they can get comfortable during periods when you are away and at bed time. This may also help ward off unwanted behaviours that often occur when pets try to keep themselves busy in your absence. Give them their own toys and teach them that those items are the acceptable ones for them to chew and play with.
4. Routine bathroom breaks:
With a regular feeding schedule comes the benefit of easier prediction of bathroom breaks. If your pet does not have free access to outside areas, be sure to offer them the opportunity to relieve themselves on a consistent schedule, which will also limit the potential for house soiling.
5. Daily routine:
Other daily routine, though sometimes harder to implement, will of course add to your pet’s feeling of security. Consider applying consistent bed and waking times, regular play and training times, daily quiet and grooming time etc.
6. Training and handling:
To help your pets adapt to life with you and the family be sure that you are all giving the same clear signals on what they are and are not allowed to do. And do not waiver from this as it will only confuse your pet. Consistency in training is one of the most important elements to ensure success, so be sure that the entire family, and even guests, are giving your pet the same feedback and direction about their behaviour, to entrench boundaries as quickly as possible.
In addition to all of this, setting a routine will force you to consider all of the vital aspects of your pet’s daily life and plot them out, ensuring all their species-specific needs are being met, which will ultimately lead to a happier, confident and well-adjusted pet. And, strangely enough, by implementing this routine, they’ll be better equipped to cope with change when the need arises.
(PFI -Dominique Kuhlmann firstname.lastname@example.org)