Building Routines and Habits for a Happier Dog

So many things that are good for people are also good for dogs. For example, routines relieve anxiety and stress and help humans focus. The same can be said for your dog, too! A regular routine, or set of routines, reduces stress levels and anxiety in dogs, while also helping them know what behaviors are expected of them throughout the day.

Why are routines good for dogs?

According to Veterinarian Jennifer Coates, “Dogs thrive on a routine, in large part because they don’t have to worry about what is — or is not — about to happen next.”

This is especially important when it comes to food because it allows your dog to enjoy life instead of worrying about when they will get their next meal. But routines for exercise, playtime, bathroom and morning and evening routines offer many other benefits, especially for puppies. These routines will adapt throughout your dog’s life — but they are important even though adulthood.


Puppy routines

When you bring home a puppy, establishing a routine will help satisfy their habitual nature. Life is much easier for you and your family when your pup’s daily schedule is synched to yours. That brings us to the four basic pillars of a dog’s life: eating, sleeping, potty, and playing.


A puppy should be fed their food over 2-3 feeding times throughout the day. The easiest way to establish this routine is to schedule it around your own mealtimes. Establishing these feeding times and sticking to them will help your puppy know when to expect food, and help them understand that there will always be more — so they are less likely to get into something they shouldn’t be eating.

When it comes to a bathroom routine the American Kennel Club suggests puppy owners should establish a timeline and stick to it. Typically, potty time should occur first thing in the morning, shortly after a meal, after playtime and naps, and before leaving the house. Remember to take your puppy out rather frequently, even if they don’t go every time — it will help them understand expectations of where to go when they do need to.

Puppies require up to 18 hours of sleep per day. It is important to establish a bedtime routine in accordance with the amount of naptime they get — otherwise, your pup might keep you up at night. Stay active and playful with your puppy in the mid-to-late evening hours. This will give you all a better chance of sleeping through the night.

Play and exercise are critically important. These times engage your puppy and help develop social skills and enrich their brain. You should play with and exercise your dog as often as you can. So set a few times during the day that you can regularly commit attention to your dog. If you know you’re going to have to cut playtime short, supplement with engaging toys or even a playdate where they can interact with other dogs.


Adult routines

Establishing or maintaining routines for adult dogs tends to be easier because mature dogs have typically already learned some basic feeding, eating and sleeping habits. So there is less of a learning curve — but here are some ways you can adapt routines into your dog’s adult years

Has your dog picked up some begging habits over the years? Establishing a feeding schedule for your dog that ensures they are full before you sit down to eat, can help deter begging behavior. You can also teach your dog to play or rest in a different room when it’s time for human mealtime. Guide your dog to the room you’d like them to stay in, set them up with some toys and encourage them to stay there during the remainder of your meal.

Most adult dogs are already housebroken and they know they should be using the outdoors for potty. If you notice your adult dog is starting to have indoor accidents, that may be a sign to see a vet to check for any underlying issues. If your dog is healthy — then their routine may just be out of sorts. Revert back to puppy training and bring them outdoors more regularly, rewarding them for going potty outside each time they do.

Adult dogs have usually established their sleeping habits after puppyhood. Support their routine by making sure they have potty opportunities before bedtime and right away in the morning. Also, when you stick to your own routine for settling down for the night — your dog will likely adapt to your schedule over time. So, remain consistent — it’s good for the both of you!

Exercise and engagement are so important for your dog through their adult years. It keeps their mind and body healthy and keeps them happy! A great way to ensure your dog gets their exercise is aligning their workouts with yours. Walking, jogging and running are great opportunities to bond with your dog while also exercising them. If your workouts aren’t dog-friendly, another way to keep routine around your workouts is to commit to some high-energy playtime before you leave for the gym or right when you get back. If you’re not a gym-goer, you could schedule these regular playtimes before and after work as well.


Routines and schedules help you and your dog know what to expect from one another. So while they also ease anxiety and stress — they also act as another form of communication between you and your dog. So take an inventory of your dog’s day and see if any of their routines need to be refined so you and your dog can both be happier and, as a result, closer!