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Helping Your Dog Cope With Changes In Routine | Pupford

September 28th, 2023

Filed under Pet Parenting

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Dogs thrive on a good routine; they are creatures of habit and like to know when it’s time for walkies, dinner, and playtime. Dogs simply need physical exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy.

But life throws curveballs, not the kind your dog wants to play catch with.

It can be stressful when situations change, even when we understand what is happening.

Unfortunately, our dogs don’t have that luxury and are often blindsided by the disappearance of the best canine buddy or human friend. When a life-altering event happens, such as the death of a family member, a child leaving for school or college, or the arrival of a baby, dogs find themselves at a complete loss, wondering what just happened.

Even around the holiday, the change in routine can confuse your pup.

Sudden changes to your dog’s environment or routine might cause them stress or anxiety, and it’s up to you as a dog parent to help them adjust and cope along the way.

The good news is that you can help your dog navigate these changes in many ways. But before we get to the most effective ways to establish a routine for your pet, here are some of the most common symptoms for a dog struggling with change.


stress symptoms in dogs

If your dog is going through a change in its life, you must keep a lookout for any dog stress symptoms, which may indicate that they’re having a difficult time coping:

  • Excessive howling or barking
  • Going to the toilet in the house
  • Lack of interest in food and play
  • Digestive issues such as diarrhea
  • Increased sleeping
  • Aggressive dog behavior
  • Destructive behavior

So what can you do to support your dog during these times?


Here is what we will discuss in this article:

  1. Follow some sort of routine
  2. Make changes gradually when possible
  3. Stay calm
  4. Get physical exercise every day
  5. provide mental stimulation to combat boredom
  6. Set up a safe space
  7. Check in
  8. Reward desirable behaviors
  9. Do not forget about them
  10. Be patient

Now we will cover all those more in-depth. Let's get started.


follow your routine as best as possible when you have a dog

Okay, we know this isn’t always possible, but if you’re able to keep your dog on routine times for meals, exercise, and bedtime, consistent with what will happen when you’re absent or spending time at home, it can ease some stress from your dog.

You leaving the house can also be a potential trigger for separation anxiety in dogs. Creating lots of excitement during farewells can be a sign you’re about to leave for the day. Make your departure both specific and predictable. Dogs need to know what to expect in their day, especially if they are unsure how to control it.

Keep it calm, positive, and for very short stints. Routines are like balms. Dogs and humans thrive on them. Of course, your routine when life returns to "normal" might look different than the routine you set up now, but that’s OK. You can adjust when that gets closer.

NOTE: When it comes to separation anxiety, there isn’t a simple fix. Patience and training will be required. Luckily, we offer a course in Pupford Academy+ on this important topic. Learn more here. 


try to make changes gradually to help your dog transition better

Though this may not always be the case, sometimes you can ease yourself and your pet into a new routine.

For example, if your dog is accustomed to morning walks, but you have to start an earlier shift, add evening activity each day before you must give up the morning session, gradually phasing out your pup’s AM exercise.

Again, make changes as subtle as possible, especially for pets with separation anxiety, who suffer when they are apart from their guardians.


stay calm around your dog to help them deal with schedule changes

Dogs are masters at reading the room, so if you make a big deal over any changes, it will signal your pet that he should react strongly, too.

For example, if a family member is leaving for college, do not make a huge emotional display over saying goodbye in front of your dog. By staying calm and relaxed, you are demonstrating to him that everything is OK.


make sure your dog gets physical exercise every day

Make time to fit in some gentle exercise with your dog before you commence work, whether working from home or heading into the workplace. (PS- A flirt pole for dogs (pictured above) is a great exercise tool.)

The endorphins from exercise can help put your pet in a happier mental state and work off some excess energy that may impact their well-being, especially if they’re home alone. Running with your dog can be a great exercise option for you AND your pup.

Striking the right balance is key here: avoid any activity that will get your pet too excited just as you depart the house or head to your home desk.


give your dog mental enrichment every day

Boredom can trigger anxiety in dogs. You may find it helpful to provide them with toys specially designed to help keep them occupied for longer periods of time.

This can include interactive toys or games, such as special food-dispensing toys or lick mats that are excellent boredom-busters and keep your pet entertained while you’re departing the home.

Snuffle mats that can also be filled with ‘hidden’ kibble are great for intellectual stimulation and keeping your dog engaged. Another great tip is to hide some treats in the garden for your dog to find while you’re away, which provides another perfect distraction!


give your dog a safe space to be alone

A place of familiarity brings comfort; this can be as simple as a dog pillow/bed, blanket, or the crate in which they are trained.

Although it may seem counterintuitive that being confined would be a good thing, dogs suddenly finding themselves alone in a large space can be unnerved.

A sense of familiarity/safety can be brought by physical space, a physical object like a toy or blanket, or even something with the parent’s scent.

Often dogs will be drawn to such a space on their own, but placing familiar objects in a smaller area in which the dog spends time home alone is often effective at easing the transition.


check in with your dog frequently

Have a friend or family member check in on your pet, or walk your dog when you are not home. Pets can get lonely, especially when they expect company and attention – check-ins can serve to negate this.

Ensure your pet is comfortable with the person checking in beforehand. If your pet is unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the person/people you have chosen, have your pet spend time with them multiple times before making the change (play with them, take them for walks, etc.).


reward your dog when they do things that you like

Rewarding your dog ensures they create positive habits through the changes. In addition, giving your dog information about what to do can help decrease frustration for everyone.

For example, you can place treat jars around the house with your pup’s favorite training treats to treat them when they do something you like.


do not forget about your dog

It is easy for new endeavors to take priority in our lives, so be mindful not to allow your relationship with your pet to suffer due to the distraction of a new job or family member.

Ignoring our dogs will only lead to behavioral issues associated with a bored or stressed pet, so make time to play with your pet daily. Keep his walks and meal times as regular as possible to help give your pup a sense of security.


be patient with your dog

No matter what life change they’re going through, dogs need time to adjust. Some dogs may adapt faster than others, and some may need more time. No matter how much time your dog needs, remember to be patient. You’ll get through this together!

Change in life is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it has to be overly stressful. Of course, all dogs are different; some dogs are more sensitive to change than others.

The soft, clingy dog may be more affected by changes in playmates or time spent alone than the more independent dog.

The playful, energetic dog may be more sensitive to changes in exercise routine than the couch potato dog.


You know your dog best and are best equipped to help him navigate the challenges. Give him and yourself plenty of time, patience, and love to make peace with what lies ahead.

How have you helped your doggo cope with changes in routine? Let us know in the comments below.


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