April 12, 2024 | General

Why Pets Need Routine: The Science Behind Consistency

Many of us don’t like change, and the same goes for animals, regardless of what stage of life they are at. Routines can support every aspect of your relationship with your pet, from house training and grooming to toothbrushing and preventing some challenging behaviours from developing.

A dog at the spa with cucumbers on it's eyes

Why is a daily pet care routine important for puppies?

Getting your puppy into a regular pattern for sleeping, eating, playing and toileting is essential in helping your pup to abide by the rules, and grow in confidence whilst they adjust to their new surroundings.

Why is a daily pet care routine important for older dogs?

In mature dogs, a routine can help to reinforce skills learnt when they were younger, and enable them to cope with new challenges as they get older, such as the introduction of a new person into the household, or travelling.

For older dogs, life can become a bit confusing or disorientating and maintaining a daily pattern in these dogs can help to reduce issues with anxiety or separation.

Why is consistency important in a daily pet care routine?

Having said that it is also important not to have too rigid a timetable, as we don’t want your pet to have a meltdown if you want to have a lie in at the weekend, or if you get stuck in traffic on the way home so are later in getting back and walking Fido. Circumstances will always arise which have the ability to throw out a firm timetable, and these factors may be beyond our control. This is why it is important to have some guaranteed consistency such as always feeding your pets in the same place, or from the same bowls, and making sure their water bowls are always kept (topped up) in the same location.

Dogs who suffer from anxieties, such as isolation stress, can be extremely aware of routine events and often us preparing to leave the house to go to work, for example, can act as the triggers to an expected, stressful, event - such as a dog being left alone. Modifying your pre-departure routines may be one of the ways to combat this anxiety.

It is also important not to inadvertently reinforce such behaviour by rewarding it - for example, if your pet gets overly excited when you walk in through the front door, don’t make a massive fuss of them straight away - wait until they’ve calmed down and only then reward them with a treat, or a toy.

Which medications are useful for a daily pet care routine?

If a change to your, and your pet’s, daily routine is inevitable, try not to make sudden changes, but incremental changes gradually day by day to let them acclimatise to the new structure. Pheromone products such as Adaptil, may help with this and have more successful results if they are “on-board” for a period of around 2 weeks prior to the anticipated change, or stress.

Rescue Remedy for Pets also exists in various formats and is suitable for reducing negative reactions to events such as loud noises and travel, and there are several “calming” medications out there such as Zylkene which contains the milk protein casein - the calming protein found in the milk of new mothers to calm their newborns.

For older pets showing signs of mental decline, Aktivait can help. This is a supplement to aid a healthy nervous system and brain function in older dogs and can help to increase energy levels and reduce depression. This should be started as soon as you notice signs of the brain slowing down, and can be given from middle age onwards. Improvements are usually seen within 3-4 weeks.

It is not unheard of for some human medications to be prescribed off-licence in extreme cases of distress or anxiety, but this really is a last resort in most cases.

Concluding thoughts from Dr Rachel Louise Keane BVSc BSc MRCVS:

Dr Rachel Louise Keane BVSc BSc MRCVS of PocketVet believes that structure is important for developing a routine for your pet:

“A daily structure is more important than a strict routine for your pet. This allows for some flexibility in timings of walks/feeding for example, and means your pet is less likely to feel anxious or emotional on those occasions when circumstances do not allow an exact schedule every day.”

Medically reviewed by:


How to get your dog into a routine | Dogs Trust

Dogs and routine - Why is a regular routine important? | Pets4Homes

Do Dogs Need a Daily Routine? (preventivevet.com)

Why Your Dog Needs a Routine at Every Stage of Life (akc.org)