A Break in Routine!

Ray is a routine driven dog. I understand that this is typical of most, if not all, canines but I am convinced that Ray is above typical!

Just make a minor change in his routine and he is totally confused, and it is not simply by changing the timing of something. His routines are very specific events where the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where and why) all come into play. Change just 1 W in the morning, and he will wander around as if his day is just finishing rather than just starting!

Many of you will know from earlier Posts that Ray’s morning generally starts with Carol taking him outside to take care of his personal “business”, after which he gets his breakfast followed by a piece of rutabaga. I come upstairs and give him a biscuit, after which I go into my bedroom and boot up my laptop. Because I had my breakfast around 5:00am, I am now ready for another coffee and usually have a piece of toast.

The first sign to Ray that his world was crumbling around him was when I came upstairs before Carol had woken up.

(“Oh no! What do I do now? I could go into my den so that Colin will give me my biscuit, but I haven’t had my breakfast yet! Where’s my rutabaga? I haven’t been outside yet!”

I invited him outside and then followed Carol’s routine. This has been happening quite a lot lately and Ray seems to have adjusted, until this past Tuesday. Ray didn’t want to go outside so, based on the assumption that his personal needs were not currently a high priority, I gave him his breakfast.

Ray is an inhaler when it comes to food so, in order to slow him down a little, he gets his meals in two stages. The first container he gets is split into numerous sections so he has to move around a bit to empty it. His second container is a standard dog bowl. I gave him his sectional container and then started to prepare his rutabaga.

A rutabaga is not easy to cut as it requires a large rigid knife, a flat surface, and some degree of force. As they seem to be always covered in a “plastic” type of coating, they must also be scraped clean before eating. All this is not a major challenge, but has to be planned hence my focus on getting it ready while he was eating.

When Ray decides that he wants something, his routine is to stand and make eye contact (he is the best at eye contact!) and, if that does not work, he will sit and maintain eye contact. I had just finished scraping his rutabaga when he came to see me and looked at me as only a Shepherd/Rotti can. Politely demanding! Clearly he wanted his rutabaga so he was duly given it. When he came back, and given that the next event would be his biscuit, I signaled him to go into his den which he did. I then gave him his biscuit.

While this was going on, I was also making my 2nd cup of coffee and waiting for the toaster. My toast popped so I prepared it and started eating it in the kitchen with Ray in hot pursuit as a small piece of my toast is the finishing touch to the start of his day.

I then went into my bedroom to catch up on the Blogosphere and emails and no sooner had I sat down when Ray wandered in and stared at me. He was obviously confused (my assessment!) because I had already eaten my toast, but that was in the kitchen and “the routine” clearly included me eating toast in my bedroom! I was just deciding to ignore him when he turned and did his “follow me” routine. I followed him right back into the kitchen and there, where I had forgotten it, was his bowl containing the other half of his breakfast!

Now I have to contemplate who was the most confused with today’s routine? Him? Me?

After finishing his breakfast (and going outside afterwards), his day returned to normal!


13 thoughts on “A Break in Routine!

  1. Ray sounds like a better solution to the string around the finger to remember stuff. Good boy, Ray. Love that he is so routinized (much like the Old English Sheepdogs were-heaven forbid you deviate from their routine). Luckily Sam is more forgiving as I totter toward old age and forgetfulness. 😉

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  2. Ray is clearly the brains of the operation 🙂 I agree that most dogs are routine centric creatures. Kali certainly is. The day I had a dental cleaning scheduled for her in the morning (an upcoming post) and since she would be under anesthesia she could not have any food in the morning. We got up at the usual time – around 6:30 – and went downstairs and the routine looked the same but the food never came. She stared at me, stared at the door to the closet where her food is stored, and looked very puzzled that I was not preparing her breakfast. She was not quite as persistent as Ray seems to be and she finally settled down but this clearly rocked her world.

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      • Colin – yes she’s pretty good at letting me clean her teeth but I haven’t been so good at being regular about it. The back teeth are hard and as it turned out she had pretty bad gingivitis in the back teeth that probably started before she was rescued. I use the doggie tooth paste with either a finger tooth brush or just gauze wrapped around my finger. how about you and Ray?

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  3. I found your blog thanks to your comment on mine and I am following now. I am a passionate dog lover as well and never tire of hearing about them. 🙂 I recently had to put my service dog down 😦 but have a puppy that is supposed to take over. She is far too wild right now but what the heck. Just her love helps. 🙂 Ray is one lucky dog to have you!
    As a side note, I see you listing Ontario locations in your blog. I used to live in Toronto and area. I moved 32 times in 16 years so I saw a lot of Ontario but spent the most time in Mississauga before moving to Newfoundland for a cheaper and quieter life. Are you in the Burlington/Hamilton/Milton area?


    • He’s done wonders training us as well as he has in only a couple of years or so! We humans may have the ultimate power but “them canines” know exactly how to exploit us to their advantage, and they do it in such a way that we let them! Somebody once defined Diplomacy as “The art of letting somebody have your way”. Who would have thought that dogs could be so diplomatic? 🙂


  4. I agree with you Colin. Dogs are creatures of habit and routine. Maggie is the same. We wake up, one of us gets dressed and takes her for her first walk. An hour and half later (no matter what time the first one was) it’s time for her second. Night time is similar, we take her out before our evening meal, have a peaceful evening, then 9ish it’s her final wee. Any earlier or later, and she will not perform! We have certain dog walking routes too, and she will trot off in the right direction, knowing we will be directly behind her. She’s flopped beside me now, having had her first walk, and shared my cereal (5 squares). Don’t we just love ’em? 🙂

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