Routines: Easy Come, Hard to Go

Dogs love routines. Particularly those they enjoy. They quickly figure out when something good should be coming to them and when to expect it.

Saying no to this precious face? It's not happening.

We like to think that we are in charge of routines.

When we bring a new dog into the home, we work hard on establishing routines. Potty times, meal times, rest times ... and dogs quickly adapt to them.  But how many routines become established thanks to the effort of our dogs?

Jasmine was the one who established daily walks.

There were times when the weather was horrible, I was sick, and figured that we were going to skip the walk that day. But when the time came, Jasmine would come up to my desk with excited anticipation in her eyes. Her face all lit up, "We're going for a walk, now, aren't we? Aren't we?" How could I have turned that face down? I couldn't. So I dragged by sorry back side out there, into the blizzard, sick like a dog ... Jasmine didn't care about the weather, she was just so happy to go outside.

And that's how daily walks became a routine set in stone.

As it turns out, the dogs are in charge or the routines more than I am. Here is the thing. If you do something your dog will like, you better be prepared to do it from then on. Unless you're impervious to the puppy eyes. Which I'm not.

What do do when you do need to change the routine and don't want to disappoint your dog?

The routine I want to tell you about started so innocently. The original version of it went like this: we had dinner, after which the guys got their dessert, typically consisting of some goodies from our plates. If we had something that wouldn't be good for them, I'd pull out some goodies from the fridge. I washed the dishes and we would take the guys potty before settling in the living area for the evening.

One day, Cookie figured she couldn't wait for the dishes to be finished and asked to go potty. So hubby took them out. When they returned, they found mom still in the kitchen. That was an exciting turn of events. "Hey, mom is still in the kitchen, maybe there will be more treats!"

The guys came rushing over to me and Cookie gave me the best puppy face she could. Yes, I'm helpless when it comes to the puppy face. So I gave out couple more treats.

Can you see the writing on the wall?

The next day, after dinner and their dessert, I went to wash dishes and Cookie asked to go potty. Did she really need to go that she couldn't wait until I was done? Doubtfully. But it was just a little change in timing, wasn't it? We'd take them potty after I was done with the dishes anyway. So hubby took them.

New routine was born.

We'd have dinner, followed by dessert for the dogs. Then hubby would take them potty and they'd come rushing back to find mom still in the kitchen and getting a second dessert. Yes, our dogs are spoiled. There was no harm in that and they had so much fun with it.

Then Spring came.

And along with it came mosquitoes, which are particularly terrible this year. And right around our dinner time they are the worst. You don't want to be outside at that time of the day. But the guys still wanted their routine. What to do? How to change the routine without hurting the guys' feelings? I'm too softhearted to just take something away from them.

Routines depend on a sequence of events.

Every event is a predictor of what's coming next. Something in the sequence needed to change.

First we had to take care of their potty needs so we started taking them out before dinner, at the latest time which we could while the bugs weren't completely insane out there, to tie them over to the last potty break before bed. Don't want the poor guys to explode, right? That part was easy enough.

Then we had to figure out which event in the dinner time sequence we should change. I could, of course, just not to do the dishes ... I'd love that but they'd still needed to be done at some point.

We analyzed the routine.

After their dessert, hubby would still remain at the table and only after the potty break we'd move on the couch. Hubby getting on the couch was a predictor of rest time.

So we decided to try to use that little change to communicate that the routine has to be adjusted.

We had dinner, the guys got their dessert and I went to do the dishes. Hubby, however, immediately moved to the couch. We were waiting, holding our breath, to see what happens.

The guys went and joined him in the living area.

Yes! In order for them not to miss out on their second dessert, after I was done with the cleaning, I brought extra treats to them.

The routine was adjusted successfully!

I was interesting to see how little that took. And without disappointing anybody. So that is our new, bug season routine.

Yes, I'm a sucker, I know that. But I was happy how I cleverly changed things without hurting anybody's feelings. And happy to learn how much routines depend on a sequence of events.

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