5 Tips to Easily Change Your Dog or Cat’s Routine
Pets are creatures of habit—so what happens when you have to change part of their daily routine? Here are six tips to make those changes less stressful and more rewarding for you and your pet!
With sunny summer months right around the corner, there are lots of exciting new activities on the horizon! Whether you’re looking forward to weekend hikes, a seasonal job, or evenings spent on restaurant patios with your friends, your winter routine is due for an upgrade. However, your pet might not be quite as excited as you are when you head out the door right when they were expecting your usual cuddle session!
Even if your routine isn’t changing, nature is! Most pets wake up when the sun rises and sleep when it sets, and their circadian rhythm might just have them waking up hours earlier with the early summer sunrise.
Any changes to routine can be anxiety-inducing for pets and people, and it will make things easier for everyone if you prepare for those changes together. These simple tips will help make upcoming changes exciting rather than stressful and leave you with a much happier dog or cat!
#1. Change Routines Gradually
When you’re making a big change to your pet’s daily routine, it’s important not to do it cold turkey! If you’re changing the time of a normal part of their routine like walks or feeding, shift it gradually.
For example, if their regular time for dinner is 5:30 P.M. but you need to move it to 6:30 P.M., adjust it little by little. They’ll notice if dinner’s an hour late, but if you keep shifting it by 15 minutes at a time over the course of a week or two, they won’t notice a thing. (Remember this one next time you have to set your clocks for daylight saving time!)
When you’re introducing a new activity or routine to their day, start with simple practice runs. For example, if you’re going to have to be out every weekend, start introducing short weekend trips a few weeks ahead of time. Head out at the time you’ll have to leave normally so your pet learns what to expect, but start with a 15-minute trip outside. You can sit on the porch and drink an extra cup of coffee before heading back inside for the rest of your day.
After a couple of days, start heading to the coffee shop for an hour instead. Keep adding time away until your pet is comfortable with your new routine so they don’t get major separation anxiety on your first day away!
#2. Make New Changes Fun
You are your pet’s favorite person in the world (aside from the mail carrier who always gives them treats) and you being gone is no fun! If you have to be out of the house, make being alone more pleasant for your pet by giving them something they love to focus on. A snuffle mat or puzzle toy full of their favorite treats or the TV set to their favorite nature documentary might actually make them look forward to their time alone!
This same logic applies to any other changes they might find unpleasant. Does your longhaired pet need way more brushing in the summer? Pull out the secret peanut butter or coveted tube treats just for this occasion. Are they stressed about car rides? Put on their favorite music in the car.
#3. Get Their Energy Out
The goal during any stressful time is to help your pet keep their cool—and they’re not going to do that if they’re brimming with energy! Physical activity is the best way to lower your pet’s energy levels and get them ready for a big nap just in time for a day alone, a long car ride, or a trip to the vet.
If you have an early start to the day and exercising in the morning isn’t your cup of tea, try playing with a laser pointer or having a game of fetch in the backyard. You’ll be able to sit back, save your energy, and sip a cool glass of water while your pet gets their zoomies out.
#4. Keep Your Cool
Your pets can tell when you’re excited or super stressed and they’ll respond in kind. That means if you’re frantically running around looking for your keys on your way to work, your pet is definitely going to be feeling the anxiety too—and that doesn’t set them up for a relaxing day alone. Try your best to stay mellow and not make a big deal of leaving to help set expectations for your pet.
This applies to positive interactions too! You might be tempted to lavish your pet with affection when you’re leaving or when you come home, but a big display of excitement shows them that what’s happening is a big deal. It’s actually more beneficial for most pets to ignore any manic energy from them and keep things as low key as possible to reduce stress and normalize this routine.
#5. Bring Them With You!
We wish our pets could come everywhere with us—which is why we bring them to as many places as we can! If you have a pet who likes to get out of the house, they might enjoy some of your activities more than you expect.
It’s a no-brainer to bring them on your weekend hikes, but have you checked if any local bars have a pet-friendly patio for your Friday drinks? Do you work outside or in a pet-friendly office? Your pet might love staying by your side—and all the attention they’ll get from your coworkers.
With these tips under your belt, you’re prepared to craft a new morning routine or weekend activity plan that’ll keep you and your pet happy! Here’s to a summer full of big adventures and cozy days at home