By Karen A. Soukiasian
Back-to-school can be a hard adjustment period for everyone; including the family dog!
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 animal 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.
10 Tips to Help Your Dog Cop With Back-To-School
1. Before school starts, help him or her 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. What you want is for your dog to associate you may leave, but you do return, and it’s no big deal.
2. 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 back yard helps take the edge off. A tired dog is a good dog!
3. 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.
4. Don’t make departing a theatrical production. Keep it natural and low-keyed.
5. 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.
6. 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. You can also put a ball or toy with your children’s scents on it in their crate. Your dog may find that calming.
7. 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.
8. 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. A trip to a dog park or a day or three at doggie daycare can also help break up your dog’s long day. They are terrific ways for your dog to learn socialization and coping skills; not to mention, they are usually exhausted when you pick them up! A tired dog is a good dog!
10. A retired neighbor or a dog walker may also help. Their arrival and adventures they share together, gives your dog something to look forward to, and breaks up the monotony of being alone.
Bottom line: By putting 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, and live happily ever after.
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