How Does Your Dog Deal with a Disrupted Routine?

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Most dogs love routine. They know what time meals are served, when walks are supposed to happen, what it means when they see a suitcase. Life is pretty predictable. They also like to liven things up. We’ve written before about how excited Jack and Maggie get when we take a new route or drive to a different place for our walk. And a vacation to Big Bear? Well, they were in heaven with so many new things to experience.
But how do dogs react when their routine is disrupted? Many humans get totally out of sorts and cranky when their routine is off. Does that happen to dogs?
A few years ago, before Tino died, we did a fairly major renovation to our house – tore out the kitchen, reconfigured it and the family room and master bedroom/bath. Lots of craziness and disruption for about four months.
Tino was about 12 at the time and blind. But he knew his way around our house perfectly. He could get from his cozy spot on the bed in the bedroom, out the door, a couple of turns into the kitchen and out the side door for his breakfast in record time. When we did the renovation, they taped off the whole front half of the house. To keep out the mess, we had one of those big heavy plastic sheet “walls” running through our living room and family room, totally blocking the kitchen and front/side doors. A section of the family room became the kitchen and our access to the front was through a totally different door.
Did that bother Tino? Nope. It took him about 1.5 days to figure out where the temporary kitchen was, where his meals were going to be served and even where the plastic sheeting was fastened so that the workers could come in when they needed to speak to me. He would hear them arrive each morning and stand at the zipper waiting for Ken to come in to go over the work planned for the day. He’d stand there and wait for his morning greeting and scratch and then go about his business – which was mostly laying in the backyard.
Tino was unflappable in the face of all this change, even as a senior and blind to boot. But not all dogs would react so favorable and may act out in ways that are uncharacteristic and unacceptable – barking, restlessness, urinating in the house, even vomiting. It’s important to keep to a routine, even when your life is disrupted.
A few things we did to make the adjustment easier for Tino:

  • We made a point of keeping Tino’s favorite bed in the same place.
  • We kept to our routine for meals and walks.
  • We started feeding him outside on the back deck a week or so before the mess started so he was already familiar with a different meal spot.
  • We made sure his access to the dog door and his backyard didn’t change.
  • We spent time introducing him to the construction team – so he knew their scents and their voices and that they might dispense treats if he was lucky.

It’s up to us as responsible pet owners to ensure that a lifestyle change whether short term or long term is as stress free as possible for our pets. All it takes is a little planning and forethought. Please add your thoughts or experiences in the comments.

Additional Readings:


Stress and the Importance of Routine for Dogs
Dogs need a routine
Sticking to a regular routine to help to reduce stress in your dog

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  1. We have a basic routine, but we also change it up a lot with the time of everything, or days, so we aren’t thrown for a loop if food is two hours late or a walk is a run instead. We never seem to have issues with change. Cat bro Bert on the other paw hates anything which delays his food and he becomes a wild animal if things run late. He makes his point known!
    Emma recently posted…It’s Basketball Time In My #PetGiftBoxMy Profile

  2. Easy always thinks we interrupt his routine to mess up his day… he takes efurrything personally :o) we did a giant renovation too, as we picked up Easy. It was a challenge to assemble furnitures with the pup on the lap. There was no routine and maybe therefore Easy created his own what’s law now :o)
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  3. Great tips! Sherman is a mess when his routine gets out of sorts.
    Jen recently posted…I Wish There Was More To This Story But There Is NotMy Profile

  4. Funny you should ask this question BOL Harley is in the middle of adjusting to everything that has changed with the arrival of a new puppy in the house. He’s doing quite well. For him, as long as I continue to carve out moments throughout the day “just for him and I” he seems to be dealing with it better. In the past (BJ – before Jax) we could switch up all the time and he would fall right into step. But now, I’ve got to make sure the changes do not seem to evolve around Jax, and make it all about him, and he’s in full agreement. Now as for me? I’m a hot mess – losing my mind 🙂 #butlovingit
    Groovy Goldendoodles recently posted…GOLDENDOODLES AND SHOESMy Profile

  5. My huskies really thrive on routine. If something doesn’t go according to plan, they know it, and aren’t afraid to tell me!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
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  6. Y’all are brilliant. I love how you prepped Tino for the changes. Sometimes, though, change can’t be planned. Even then, a contingency plan in place helps. My own wee dog goes to Grandma’s house when something happens. It’s familiar and routine change.
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  7. What an amazing dog Tino was! Mom’s pet product lady Bobbi Panter said of her blind Shih Tzu Bobo that her being blind bothered Bobbi more than the dog. Never forgot that. Love Dolly
    Dolly the Doxie recently posted…Dolly’s Puppy DaysMy Profile

  8. Kilo is pretty easy but he definitely has things he must do like have a little play break every couple hours.

  9. As usual, pets take their cues from us. So important to lead by example and present novelty as a fun adventure rather than a stressful headache.

  10. I’m always amazed at how a quickly a dog can adapt to blindness. We had a blind dog once an no one would believe he didn’t have perfect vision.
    jan recently posted…Newman the Picasso pupMy Profile

  11. So smart to start preparing Tino for the changes before they took place. And of course, it’s great to have an adaptable dog, something no one can ever guarantee.

    We recently had a real estate agent come to the house unexpectedly with a contractor while I was at work. Luckily, Honey loves visitors. I’d like to think all the puppy socialization we did with her made the unexpected visit a nuisance instead of a disaster.
    Pamela recently posted…Reassuring Your Dog (Who Doesn’t Speak English)My Profile

  12. Great post. Disruption in routine can actually make pets sick too. A veterinarian I interviewed told me that one of the major causes of gastrointestinal distress in dogs and cats is disruption in routine.

    –Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats
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  13. Our dogs seem to adjust pretty well to routine changes. I think it helps that I work every other day outside the home, so we actually have two different routines for when I stay home and when I work. But breakfast is always the same time every day without fail, and bedtime is fairly routine too (I think bedtime is the most important thing to them!). But on the occasions we do go out or stay up late, they seem fine with that too….whenever we end up in bed, they’ll be snoozing away, no worse for wear!
    Jan K recently posted…Monday Mischief – The GateMy Profile

  14. Our dogs love habits and I appreciate it too. This year will be the first time we’ll be leaving them with a pet sitter and I wonder how they’ll do. They love their pet sitter (especially Scout) so I think they won’t notice our absence much.

    We’re planning a couple remodels in the house and that’ll be interesting. The biggest thing we’ve done inside is tile the living/dining room and the dogs were mostly just curious. And the puppies pooped on the hardy backer a couple times. Ahhh, puppies.

  15. Our guys love routine too. Unless it’s disrupted by something better than what normally happens. Which is the reason for disruption most of the time.

    When we were moving/ packing and getting stuff loaded over the period of quite some time, Cookie didn’t seem to care much about that at all. We too kept her bed ups till the last moment. When we picked that up and started carrying it out, she was visibly worried and wasn’t gonna get it out of her sight.
    Jana Rade recently posted…Adoption Monday: Emily, Treeing Walker Coonhound: Amherst, NYMy Profile

  16. Very nice job on your part prepping Tino for the change! It must have helped, too, that you kept his exercise routine ~ dogs without pent-up energy are able to deal with changes more easily, I have found! Our pups don’t have an exact feeding time, as it varies anywhere between 7-10 am, and between 5-7 pm, so they never expect breakfast or dinner at a particular time.
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…International Puppy Day ~ Don’t Support Puppy Mills!My Profile

  17. Good boy Tino and you are so right about thinking ahead and making the adjustments easier. My dogs are into their routine too, when john was getting up at 3:30 to go to work they would get fed so then when he would go in later they thought they should still eat at 3:30 we finally got them on the later track.

    • Haha…that happened to us long ago Steve was working a overnight shift because he was involved in the overseas markets…really messed up Sally’s schedule.
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  18. It’s amazing how much dogs like their routines, but at the same time they are so resilient and able to adapt. The things you did for Tino are great tips to help a dog adapt!
    Elaine recently posted…10 Easy Ways to Find Dogs for PlaydatesMy Profile

  19. Sam is pretty unflappable but the two OESs that lived with us for so long I swear must have been German, they were so religiously plugged into their routines with no deviation tolerated (I feel like I can say that because I’m German, but they took it to extremes on precision and adherence to exact time for things to happen!). Going to and from Daylight Savings Time put them into orbit. 😉
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  20. Sampson is usually pretty “go with the flow” while Delilah has more of a rigidity to her, especially when it comes to food. We try our best to make sure she gets her food when she expects it. 🙂
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