Raising Litter Mates



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TO SCHEDULE OR NOT TO SCHEDULE?


I come in contact with lots of pooch people daily with thoughts and ideas about dogs that differ greatly from my own. I do what I feel is best for my dogs and their well being and what is best suited for our lifestyle.



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Monday, March 19, 2012
The Routine Dog - How Important is a Schedule?

I try very hard to not keep Kratos and Taro on any type of "schedule". This may shock most of you because time and after time we read and are told that dogs like a scheduled life. We are told that if we "switch" things up dogs can get extremely stressed due to change in normal routine.

I don't want my dogs being stressed because I want to take an afternoon nap when I am not feeling well or if I get an "emergency" phone call that I need to be somewhere ASAP or if life throws me a curve-ball once in awhile and I need to up and leave. My life isn't "scheduled" so why should I expect my dogs lives be?

I probably have your attention now, and you think my life is all over the place - no it actually isn't. For those who know me know that I am a very scheduled individual, however, my schedule is based on things I need to get done and of course how I feel physically and mentally (lately it has been based on weather - we've had some crazy weather!!)

Having said all that, let me go back now and clarify a few things. As a puppy, especially during house-breaking training, my litter mates were on a very timed strict schedule. They were also completely house-broken within 10 days. I'm not even talking about "oh! look they piddled on their puppy pads" I opted to by pass that stage and take them directly outside. I understand most people don't have the time, energy or patience to do that, but I didn't want to teach my litter mates that eliminating in my house is acceptable at any age. Yes, they were on a feeding/eliminating schedule for the first few months of their furry lives with us. Once I knew they had full control of their bladder, and by this time I was able to read my dogs and understand them better (remember that takes time), I then started to switch up their schedule - gradually - in attempt to make the day less predictable and more realistic. Now it was their turn to fully understand me in MY world.

I started taking them on their daily adventures in the morning-between 9:30am - noon. I started to notice that they would become antsy at about that time (9:30am) and begin to follow me around the house. I didn't like this very much - it felt like I had two (2) tails! I realized that I needed to stop this behaviour so I pushed back their "walk time" until they settled down. Kratos and Taro learned quickly that it was up to me to decided when to take them out regardless of what clothes I was wearing at the time. Sometimes I would take a drive around the block or to the nearby grocery store in my doggy walking attire - attire that they recognize - while they stayed at home. Sure, it threw them off - but they didn't panic or stress - they adjusted.

Slight adjustments in schedule, lots of praise and rewards for desired behaviours is all it took for my litter mates to become adjusted to MY time/schedule. Now if I decide to take them out in the afternoon instead of the morning they are fine - I can safely walk up and down my stairs in doggy walking gear without them freaking out and spinning in circles around my feet (quite dangerous on the stairs) and I can plan my day according to weather, work or laziness as I please and know that my boys won't panic or stress out when things are out of sync. If anything, this non-scheduled routine has made them quite adaptable to any situation that they are presented with! I'm very happy with that. If they get bored, they pick up their toys and play with each other - they zoom around outside to release some energy - we have short training sessions throughout the day to keep them mentally stimulated -lots of things that can be done at random times of the day!

Having said all the above, I do believe that dogs that are raised entirely on a schedule can and will present anxious behaviours and will become stressed once things change - but who's to blame for that? Maybe its time to recycle the itinerary and switch things up - introduce new things and help your dog overcome some of these scary things! Try it! Mornings are much more enjoyable, especially the weekend, when your dog isn't pacing at 9am to go for a stroll or chewing up your walls when its "dinner time" and you are stuck in traffic somewhere!

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