After months of fun-filled days with their family, some dogs struggle to adjust when they suddenly find themselves home alone. This problem often occurs more in one-dog families.
Changes in the family’s routine can be stressful, even traumatic to some dogs. It is not uncommon for families to get a puppy during the summer.
If you have a new puppy, the dog is unaccustomed to being left home alone all day. Your puppy also hasn’t experienced the hectic back-to-school routine.
If so, your dog may exhibit abandonment issues, and struggle to adjust to no longer having their favorite playmates with them 24/7.
Signs your dog is struggling
Depression and anxiety are two signs your puppy or dog is having a hard time coping with the new schedule. Many display their frustration with inappropriate behaviors such as not eating, pacing, barking, whining, howling, and chewing everything in sight!
Some even regress and forget basic potty training.
Keep in mind when school starts, if your dog spends the day alone, to them, their day doesn’t start until their family is back home with them.
Establish a back to school routine
Create a new schedule
Dogs feel secure when they have a familiar routine. We are creatures of habit, and your dog knows your habits! New habits and expected routines are reassuring to your puppy or dog.
So set new bedtimes and change the morning feeding routine two to three weeks before school starts. Not only will it help your dog adjust, but it also will help your children get back in a school routine.
Build-in morning exercise time
Vigorously exercise your dog as long as possible in the morning. Keep in mind; morning is an energy-packed time in your dog’s day. After a good night’s sleep, they are ready, willing, and eager to go!
If you wear them out, they will in all probability want to nap for a while. A long walk or a good workout in the backyard helps take the edge off. A tired dog is a good dog!
Eliminate the drama
Don’t make departing a theatrical production. Keep it natural and low-key.
Dogs pick up on your anxiety, and that will make them more nervous. Studies show anxious or neurotic owners inadvertently pass those traits to their dogs.
Include the dog
If you walk or drive your children to and from the bus or school, bring the dog. This will help your puppy adjust to seeing them leave.
Your dog will learn to associate being with them on the walk or ride as a fun thing. They also will have the time on the walk or ride home with you to disconnect.
Knowing they will get to pick up the kids later will give your dog something to look forward to during the day.
Reduce separation anxiety
Get your dog used to being home alone
Before school starts, help your dog adjust to being alone by leaving them home alone for a few minutes. Slowly add a few more minutes, each time they are left home alone.
Do not make a big deal about your return. You want your dog to understand that although you leave, you will return, so your departure isn’t anything to worry about.
Usually, most crated dogs sleep the day away. That’s boring!
Leave a few things that will occupy them. There are puzzle toys that can keep them mentally stimulated and busy.
You also can consider putting a ball or toy with your children’s scents on it in the dog’s crate. Your dog should find that calming.
Consider adding sound
Your dog may find it comforting if cable TV or radio is left on when they are home alone. Just hearing a human voice may be enough to help them not feel abandoned.
Another option, play music for your dog. Dogs can find loud music aggravating, so consider playing classical music without to provide soothing background noise.
Treat your dog
Set up a play date
You can do it together or even take turns watching each other’s dogs; allowing free time for each of you to keep appointments or run errands.
After even an hour or two, your dog will be happy to take a break, go home and nap!
Get the dog out of the house
Break up your dog’s day with a trip to a dog park. Or schedule a day or three at doggie daycare.
Both options provide terrific ways to help your dog learn socialization and coping skills. As a bonus, your dog will usually be exhausted when you arrive to take him home. Remember, a tired dog is a good dog!
Give your dog a fun surprise
This will give your dog something to look forward to, and it will break up the monotony of being alone.
Put yourself in your puppy or dog’s place and understanding what they are feeling.
With patience and some creativity, everyone can and will survive this annual transition period.
– Karen A. Soukiasian
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