Routine vs structure

Routine: regular, unvarying, habitual, unimaginative, or rote procedure.

Structure: a complex system considered from the point of view of the whole rather than of any single part.

Routine/no routine; that is the question. Just like us; dogs are very much individuals and what works for one does not always work for another. Routine can be a good thing for dogs; too much can be a bad thing. So how much is enough? Do you need any routine at all? I'm not a real routine type of gal myself; I like to be spontaneous, I'm not a fan of making plans. More than often my days are arranged by by appointments that I work around; but other than scheduled appointments I like to wing it.

My dogs generally eat breakfast around 10ish; give or take several hours. I do not want dogs that run to the kitchen in a panic if they haven't eaten by 6am, no thank you. Because I like my flexibility I make sure the dogs get food as soon as they wake up; when we have our early morning breakfast. So if breakfast is a little far off they aren't going to starve to death. Plus being that we are in Southern California much of our walking takes place in the morning when it is cooler. And walking dogs on full tummies is not a good idea.

Although feeding time is not on a routine at all in our house; the act of feeding is structured and the order of delivery is routine. Having routine allotment feeding helps to eliminate a free for all feeding. Each dog knows their turn and waits patiently for their delivery. The feeding place is switched up often. Sometimes it's in a bowl on the floor in the kitchen, maybe outside, perhaps tossed around the yard in a game of prey drive fulfillment and occasionally all the dogs are handfed by me. But the delivery remains the routine.

Too much routine can create behavior issues; dogs can become very set in their ways. Take dogs who eat at a very specific time; or go for a walk every day at 5:00pm. They can drive you mad if you fall out of that routine for some reason. It is hard to explain to them that you have to get something else done before they get their routine dinner or walk; they don't get it. So for me a small amount of routine is okay; but structure is better.

Some second hand dogs do very well with some routine in their lives. But you don't want to over do it. Routine can give an otherwise scattered dog some rhyme and reason to their life creating a more relaxed and confident dog. A small amount of routine used with a good amount of structure works well in my books. Structure is a more hands on type deal; something that you are more in charge of. When routine can run amuck; structure is basically up to you and that's a good thing.

Take a new toy situation for example. You bring a bag of new toys into the house; your dogs could go totally crazy jumping and grabbing, creating the not so desirable free for all scenario. But if you have thought out the whole situation first; and applied a structured facilitation then everyone has fun without loosing control.

So if you are a very routine type of person; try switching it up a bit for your dogs sake. It puts you in the driver seat and that is where you should be.

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