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Your morning routine ruins your dog’s day, every single day – but it doesn’t have to.
I had a eureka moment last week while I drove home from training a young puppy. As usual, I had a podcast on – one of my favorites, Animal Training Academy. This episode from Kirstin Anderson covered a wide range of topics. Ryan Cartlidge (the host) and Kirstin mostly spoke about training marine animals for research on sound disturbances.
But nestled in the midst of the podcast was this ingenious tidbit of dog training advice. Here’s a quick video of me putting it in action — but read on below to get all the details!
Please note that this routine will NOT fix separation anxiety – but it can help make many dogs’ mornings better.
Does your dog struggle with your work schedule or have separation anxiety? Sign up for our Left Alone course now!
Your Morning Routine Ruins Your Dog’s Day
Think about it, Kirstin urged. You get up. You walk your dog. You feed him and then it’s all downhill from there. Your poor dog watches as you get ready for work and head out for 8+ hours. If he’s lucky, a dog walker comes by. But it’s a long, lonely day every day.
So what was the eureka moment?
Kirstin suggested flipping your routine upside down to create a dog-friendly morning routine. Here’s a breakdown of an average morning routine (the one we’re going to fix):
- Get up. Spend some time cuddling, checking your phone, and then it’s go time.
- Walk Fluffy. This is the highlight of Fluffy’s morning, I almost guarantee it.
- Feed Fluffy while you eat breakfast. Another big highlight, I’m sure.
- Get ready for work. Kirstin pointed to a few studies that highlight a dog’s stress levels while left alone. The stress hormones in your dog’s body are probably pumping by now.
- Go to work. Your dog hangs out all day. If you’re lucky, he sleeps. Kirstin highlighted studies that found dog’s stress levels did not correlate with whether or not they paced, vocalized, or got destructive while left alone. So don’t think that Fluffy’s sleepiness means she’s calm, cool, and collected.
Can you see how this might be a problem? Your generic, boring, normal morning routine ruins your dog’s day.
It might even be contributing to Fluffy’s separation anxiety. If your dog is struggling with separation anxiety, please schedule a call or text me to talk about separation anxiety. I take on clients from anywhere in the world.
All the good stuff is in the beginning. This order of operations makes it easy for your dog to dread your departure.
Don’t let your morning routine start off at the high point and then get worse and worse and worse for Fluffy. Save the good stuff for the end. As you’ll see, my dog is basically begging me to leave by the end of my morning routine. The best part of his morning comes after I leave! Perfect!
It’s Easy to Have a Dog-Friendly Morning Routine
As a student of Stoic philosophy, I love morning routines. As soon as I heard this podcast, my mind started racing. Was my morning routine setting Barley up for failure?
No. It wasn’t. Because I already do what Kirstin suggests.
Let’s flip your current morning routine. Put Fluffy’s favorite things at the very end of your morning routine. If at all possible, put them after you’ve already left for work!
This means that you’ll get up, get ready for work, and then walk Fluffy. When you get home from the walk, you’ll feed Fluffy – but you’ll leave while Fluffy is still eating. This little change alone will help make Fluffy excited for you to leave. Simply modifying the order of your morning routine will work wonders for Fluffy.
If your dog is struggling with separation anxiety, I can help! We have an entire self-study course dedicated to fixing your dog’s separation anxiety.
Try It: A Dog-Friendly Morning Routine
Want a morning routine for your dog? Try mine. It’s helped curb my dog’s concern about being left alone, keeps him busy, and wears him out while I’m at work.
- Wake up with your alarm.
- Go to the bathroom and do your business. Get ready for work, packing up your food.
- When you’re 100% ready for work, call your dog.
- Go for your morning walk.
- Put your dog in the bathroom or another small room.
- Hide treats all over the house. I pull out two frozen Kong’s, a pig’s ear, some baby carrots, a few treats from the latest BarkBox, and Barley’s breakfast. I split his morning kibble into two or three puzzle toys (that link has 23 of my favorites). While Barley waits in the bathroom, I hide all of these goodies around our 700 square foot apartment. I make sure that they’re all on the ground and that there’s absolutely nothing available on the counters or in the trash that Barley could enjoy. He really enjoys eating things off of counters – this routine of hiding things actually started as a way to break him of that habit.
- This takes me 3-5 minutes. That’s less time than it takes to clean up the trash if he gets into it, so it’s worth it.
- Let your dog out after the apartment is basically a personalized candy shop for your dog. He’s probably so excited for the daily “hunt” that he’ll barely notice when you leave.
- If you crate your dog, just use lots of puzzle toys and other chewies.
- If your dog won’t eat while he’s alone, reach out. I can help troubleshoot!
My “backwards” morning routine ends with the best parts of the day. Barley doesn’t even acknowledge me most mornings as he dashes off to start finding his goodies. It’s perfect.
Kayla grew up in northern Wisconsin and studied ecology and animal behavior at Colorado College. She founded Journey Dog Training in 2013 to provide high-quality and affordable dog behavior advice. She’s an avid adventurer and has driven much of the Pan-American Highway with her border collie Barley. She now travels the US in a 2006 Sprinter with her two border collies, Barley and Niffler. Aside from running Journey Dog Training, Kayla also runs the nonprofit K9 Conservationists, where she and the dogs work as conservation detection dog teams.