Novelty is the spice of life, but many of our dogs thrive on routine.
Routine can help anxious dogs by offering predictability in their day-to-day experiences, so they know what’s coming next. Puppies and senior dogs who’s senses or cognitive abilities are beginning to decline may also benefit from the sense of safety routine offers.
Many dogs experience boredom when faced with the exact same schedule day after day, though. Active dogs and breeds that have been bred for specific tasks such as herding, mushing, or hunting may especially benefit from some extra variety in their schedules, though dogs of any breed deserve the mental enrichment novelty offers.
All dogs are unique and age, energy level, breed, and individual temperament will dictate exactly what balance of routine vs. novelty is right for your dog. Some of these ideas may work for your dog, and some may not. As with all ideas you find on the internet, tweak it to fit your dog & your family.
That all aside, here are a few ideas to balance routine and novelty:
Feed meals at approximately the same time every day BUT use a different puzzle toy every day.
Some of our favorite toys come from the Busy Buddy line from PetSafe. We simply keep a basket full of 5+ toys that dispense kibble and select which ones the dogs will eat their meals from, rotating through different ones throughout the week.
Our rotation for kibble includes: a Squirrel Dude, a Twist’n Treat, a couple logic puzzle toys, a snuffle mat, and lots of DIY toys involving whatever happens to be in our recycling bin at the time.
Keep safe chew toys available at all times BUT rotate toys every few days.
Chewing is so important for our dogs, but they often get desensitized or bored of the same toys being available all the time.
Try keeping some of your dog’s toys in a closet and rotating them every few days to increase novelty. Of course, if your dog has a stuffed BFF, feel free to leave it out. This is especially helpful for chews like antlers, bones, or Nylabones.
Exercise your dog at approximately the same time every day BUT try different activities.
One day may be fetch in the yard, the next, a sniffy walk through the neighborhood, and on the weekends, a nice hike somewhere new.
Allowing you and your dog this flexibility in an exercise routine can be especially helpful for reactive dogs who may need time off from walks during especially busy days or after stressful interactions.
Tug and canine body conditioning are also great ways to keep your dog moving from the safety of your home. Simple exercises such as balancing, sitting or standing with good posture, and walking backwards are all simple but effective ways to build muscle. Just be sure to find a reputable source for any doggy exercises you try for the purpose of body conditioning.
Stick to positive reinforcement training BUT try training a new trick every once in a while.
As dog trainers, we’re pretty passionate about being consistent with the positive reinforcement training. Keep training your dog using treats, praise, affection, and play, but add some variety into the mix by teaching a fun new trick!
Many dogs will love the novelty of learning something new. It’s a great way to brush up on your training skills, as well. Most of the skills we teach our dogs should be taught pretty similarly to how we teach new tricks, so perfect your timing and breaking down behaviors into smaller steps with something fun & new!
Think of novelty as a way to add new experiences into your dog's life in a predictable way. New flavors of chew toys, new places to sniff, new things to learn-- all paired with the safety and predictability that routine offers.