Why routine is important for your dog
Last week out walking I met a very sweet 18 week-old Border Collie puppy. I started chatting to her ‘mum’ about the joy of having a Border Collie, while the pup ran around my girls, some of whom even managed to speak to her nicely lol.
As I usually do in these situations, I mentioned how challenging it is to walk a puppy for a limited amount of time, as it goes by so quickly. According to Kennel Club exercise guidelines, a puppy of this age does not need as much exercise as an adult dog.
“If you over-exercise a growing puppy you can overtire it and damage its developing joints, causing early arthritis. A good rule of thumb is a ratio of five minutes exercise per month of age (up to twice a day) until the puppy is fully grown, i.e. 15 minutes (up to twice a day) when three months old, 20 minutes when four months old etc. Once they are fully grown, they can go out for much longer.”
The lovely owner of this pup said she had talked to the vet about the amount of exercise to give and had been told that it was fine for the puppy to have plenty of exercise, as she is such an active breed! Hmm, well I’m not happy with that!
Anyway, I’m always banging on about the amount of exercise we should or shouldn’t give our dogs. But what really frustrated me when talking to this person was that she said “I decided not to walk as far (she’d been doing 3 hours a day I believe!) yesterday so the puppy was ‘playing up’ all day long; being really naughty.” You think? Might that possibly be because she is used to walking for hours each day and wonders why she isn’t doing so today? Might that be because walking for so many hours per day has made her fit and a flea, so that is now what she expects to have? It’s not her fault her owner suddenly couldn’t be arsed, is it!
Fit for purpose
This owner also explained to me that she had grown up on a farm, where the collies were ‘running with the tractors all day’. Maybe, but actually I doubt it. When your parents have dogs, you take them for granted; they are part of the furniture. You don’t really pay attention to whether they are actually running about all day, or whether they do a bit, then take themselves off for a good long sleep. And I challenge most teenagers to tell me whether the dogs owned by their parents suffer from arthritis, or whether they are on medication.
When considering getting a dog you must start by thinking about the pattern of your everyday life. What time do you currently have that you are prepared to set aside for a dog? If you honestly have nothing going on in your life and want to walk for 3 hours EVERY DAY that’s fine, but really? Who can do that? Your dog must fit the life that you have, not the one you think you would like.
Yes, yes I know; in the wild animals have to hunt for their food and may not catch anything, so why do they need routine feeding? What time do you have your breakfast? And your dinner? I bet it is within a few minutes of the same time every day. Sure, you can cope with going out to dinner and waiting a bit, but the term ‘hangry’ has not been coined for no reason.
I bet that if you studied wild animals closely, you would find that their behaviour follows the same exact patterns every day. Wake up, toilet, go hunting/grazing, do some exercise, sleep for a while…
Be kind to your dog
They will thank you for it. If you follow a rough routine and do the same things with your dog most days, you will have a much happier, more relaxed dog. They will know what is going on and be able to manage their expectations. Changes in routine are scary and difficult for dogs, who have no control over their environment or the structure of their lives in our homes.
Be patient if you do have to make changes. When you take dogs away on holiday, they might have accidents in the night, or be sick, simply because they are not able to cope with what is happening.
Ask for help?
You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice. I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues. Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my new service.
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