Our lives are ever-changing. Whether your family has students in and out of school breaks, your career has shifted from remote to in-office for flex time, or you’re an hourly worker, these changes in schedule have a big impact on your life, and the lives of your pets.
Do Pets Need a Regular Schedule?
When training a new pet, a schedule is imperative to help them learn what’s expected of them and when, but there’s more to it than that. Pets of any age benefit from the predictability of a schedule. Dog Behaviorist Deborah Dobson says, “Dogs appreciate and feel more relaxed having a daily routine — especially adopted dogs, who may well not have had much they could rely on before they were helped.”
For a pet who can’t understand the ebb and flow of human life, knowing when you will be home, when they will be fed, and when they sleep is a point of comfort for them. Changes to what they expect can cause stress, which can have a major impact on your pet’s health including a shorter life and potential for illness, so finding ways to ease the stress of an ever-changing schedule is important.
How You Can Help Your Dog Adjust to Schedule Changes
As the workforce shifts back to the office or to a flex schedule with some days at home and some days in the office, you may feel that your life is off the rails, but your dog probably feels that tenfold. As any shift-worker knows, not having a set schedule is draining, but there are things you can do to help your pet deal with your unpredictable schedule.
Give Your Pet Time to Adjust
If you have been working from home in the past years and suddenly your job is going back to the office, you have some time to adjust to what’s ahead, and so does your pet. Get them used to you being gone in small doses. Leave them at home or in their crate for short periods at a time, progressively making them longer and longer so that when your new schedule takes effect, they are used to your absence and comfortable knowing you’ll return soon.
Make Time to Play Every Day
When you’re gone, your pets likely laze around the house, so when you’re home, be sure to dedicate some time to burning off all that excess energy. Take them outside for fetch, grab their favorite toy, or go for an evening (or morning) walk so they get some exercise. You get the added bonus of keeping them healthier with this daily activity.
Feed Them at the Same Time Every Day
If you can, make sure their mealtimes are at the same time every day. The comfort of a predictable mealtime will not only give your pet something to look forward to, but also rely on. If you’re a shift worker and you can’t guarantee a particular mealtime every day, consider an automatic feeder. If you need to change their schedule and know in advance, shift their mealtimes gradually with small increments of 10 or 15 minutes each day until they’re used to eating at the new hour.
Leave Them with Activities
Pets get bored too, so if you’re gone for long stretches at a time, leave them something to do. Pet puzzles, chew toys, and even music or television in the background can keep your pet from getting bored. You’ll be grateful you did, because when a pet gets bored or stressed their behavior can change and become destructive.
These changes are easier on the workdays when you too have a set schedule, but pets have no concept of the weekend, so keep your schedule consistent every day of the week. Take your daily walks at the same time, and ensure food is provided at the same time. If you’re leaving for a weekend adventure, make sure your pet has access to the same toys they do on your workdays.
Spend Quality Time Together
Hanging with their best friend (hint: it’s you) is the perfect way for pets to relax, and you get the added benefits of being near your pet, so make sure your schedule includes some quality bonding time. It will help you both unwind after a stressful day.
Taking care of a pet is a full-time commitment. They rely on their people for everything in their lives, including happiness, so take measures to give them the best life possible.
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