How to Give Your Dog's Life Structure When Your Life Has None
Dogs are extremely adaptable to our lifestyles.
If you give any thought at all to matching your activity level with your dog's, chances are he's as active (or inactive) as you are.
They also like structure. They thrive in an environment where there are rules and boundaries; they know what they are, and are not, allowed to do. If you always walk your dog on a leash, and have for a very long time, if you are distracted one day and start to walk out the door without him being on a leash it's very likely he'll give you a, "Really? I don't have to have my leash on?" type look before he walks out the door.
But what if you're one of those people whose life isn't run on a schedule? You may not be able to do much to change your lifestyle, but try to add structure for your dog even if there isn't much structure to your life.
Try to feed your dog at the same time every day. Dogs are pretty open to eating whenever we feed them, but they want to eat when they expect to eat. If you have a job that sometimes has you going in early and/or staying late, find feeding times that will always work.
For example, if you never leave home before 7:30 am and are always home by 8:00 pm, then feed your dog at 7:00 am and 8:30 pm. Yes, that is a long time between meals, but he can adjust to that. You might modify his consumption and give him a larger breakfast than dinner, so he doesn't get hungry during the day. Or give him a puzzle toy with treats in it he can play with if he does get hungry.
Most house-broken dogs can last for a fairly long time without being let out. Many healthy dogs can wait 8 or 10 hours or longer between outdoor trips. But they have a limit.
Say you have a normal work day that has you out of the house from 8:00 am to 6:pm. Get your dog used to that schedule. Let him out right after breakfast, and let him out once you get home. If you have to work a longer day than usual, come home over your lunch break and let your dog out. If that won't work, have a trusted neighbor, friend or family member let him out at, or before, the time you typically get home.
If the weather is reasonably good and you have a fenced yard, you can leave your dog outside for the day. Just make sure he has plenty of water and some shelter, in case the weather changes.
Some communities offer doggy day cares. If there is one in your area and you can afford it, this could be a great alternative if you have enough advanced notice of your long day you can take advantage of it.
If you have to take business trips, make plans ahead of time for how you'll care for your dog so he can get used to that routine.
If possible, have someone you and your dog both know and trust stay at your home with your dog while you're gone. If that is not an option, then try to board your dog at the same place every time. Your dog and personnel at the kennel (or other boarding facility) will get to know each other. This will then become just another routine your dog will adjust to.
Dogs love their people and want to please them. Your dog will do what he can to adapt to you and your schedule. Implementing these steps will help you add some structure to your dog's life and give him a sense of what to expect. With his routine in place and lots of time with his master on your free days, your dog will be the friend and companion you want.
Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.