Just around 6:00 pm each night everyone (dogs) start to get antsy. Tilley paces past the front door umpteen times; Luke sits with his ears plastered back waiting. He may come and stand in the kitchen but his ears are facing the front door. Jessie is in and out of the kitchen; waiting. Everyone is awaiting the arrival of Dad; the one and only. How do they know what time it is? They may pick up on several of my behavior cues; I head down to the kitchen to start dinner. The daylight or lack there of also tells them what time it is and then they have that crazy dog sense that only dogs have.
There are quite a few things during the day that the dogs are quite aware of. One is Dad's arrival time; what time they eat, when they go for a walk and tv time. Dogs just know; it's all association. If I get my suitcase out; I tend to have a couple of stressed out pups. If I grab my flip flops in the morning then everyone remains in their comfy spot; but if I grab my dog walking shoes they all jump and are ready to go. And if I grab my dog walking shoes in the middle of the day; I just get a quick glance. Dogs tend to become habitual; some more than others, Luke is very set in his ways and if you offer to do an activity at a different time than he is use to he can get a littler ornery about it. This is why I like to mix things up; routine can be good or bad depending on the dog.
For many dogs; routine is settling, it can make the difference for a nervous type. Dogs who need confidence building can benefit from routine as well. When you have a pack of dogs; routine can be very helpful. But as many things are too much is not always better. It is also good not to be so routine that your dog comes unglued if things change. I think tossing out things when they are not expected keeps them on their toes and able to handle something random that might just happen. I often recommend routine for a certain dog; but I also tell the owner to keep a close eye on routine control. The moment when routine seems to take on a new meaning; and that is the dog controlling the situation.
A daily walk is a good thing to switch up; don't go the same way all the time. Even my husband will throw the dogs every once in a while by coming in the back or garage door. They get pretty startled by this but it does help to tone down the anxiety of his arrival the next few days. If you have a very stringent and regulated routine around your place; good to throw'm a curve ball now and then. Feed them in a different spot; ask them for a down in a weird place, call them into a room or closet that they've never been and do some obedience.
Keeping a dog on their toes can be tough; they are much smarter than we credit them for. Heck; they know when Dad should be home and they don't have a watch.