By Karen A. Soukiasian
Back-to-school tips for dogs can help make a hard adjustment period for the family pet a little easier.
After months of unrestricted, fun-filled days with their family, some dogs have a difficult time adjusting when they suddenly find themselves home alone. This problem is frequently more common in one-dog families.
Changes in the family’s new routine can be stressful, even traumatic to some dogs. It is not uncommon for families to get a puppy during the summer. The dog is not accustomed to being left home alone all day, nor have they experienced the hectic back-to-school routine. They may exhibit abandonment issues, adjusting to no longer having their favorite playmates with them 24/7.
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 to improper housebreaking issues.
Keep in mind when school starts, if your dog is left home alone, to them their day really doesn’t start until their family is back with them.
Establish back-to-school routine
1. Establish new routines. Dogs feel secure, when there is 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, it also will help your children get back in a school routine.
2. 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…anywhere! If you wear them out enough, 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!
3. Get rid of the drama. Don’t make departing a theatrical production. Keep it natural and low-key.
4. Include the dog. If you walk your children to and from the bus, or drive them to and from school, bring the dog. They will learn to adjust to seeing them leave. Their departure won’t be as stressful, because your dog will learn to associate being with them on the walk or ride is a fun thing. They will also have the time on the walk or ride home, to disconnect. It also gives them something to look forward to during the day, knowing they will be there to greet them, when they return home in the afternoon.
Reduce separation anxiety
5. 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 a big deal.
6. Add playtime to your dog’s day. Usually, most crated dogs sleep the day away. That’s boring! Leave a few things that will occupy them. There are toys that can keep them mentally stimulated and busy. Consider putting a ball or toy with your children’s scents on it in the dog’s crate. Your dog should find that calming.
7. Consider adding sound. Your dog may find it comforting if a 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.
Treat your dog
8. Set up a play date. If you have friends with dogs, they are probably going through the same thing you’re going through. Get together and arrange play dates. Dogs need dog friends! 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!
9. Get the dog out of the house. Break up your dog’s day with a trip to a dog park. Or schedule them for a day or three at doggie daycare. Both options provide terrific ways to help your dog learn socialization and coping skills. As an added bonus, your dog will usually be exhausted when you arrive to take him home. Remember, a tired dog is a good dog!
10. Give your dog a fun surprise. Hire a dog walker or ask a retired neighbor to take your dog for a walk during the day. This will give your your dog something to look forward to and it will break up the monotony of being alone.
Bottom line: 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.
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