It’s back to school time – woo hoo! For many parents, it’s the most wonderful time of the year (okay, for ALL parents). But for the family dog, heading back to class can be stressful. The end of summer can spell the end of the good times – trips to the beach, constant play dates, lazy days on the deck, Frisbee in the park. Hey, they don’t call them the “dog days of summer” for nothing!
When the days start to shorten and back-to-school sales are rampant, it’s a sign of the return to regular activities for the family. This often means that the dog is going to be home alone, and after the summer he just had, he’s not going to be happy. Here is my list on how to beat the Back-to-School Dog Blues:
Get back into a routine now: Get your dog used to being home along again by starting small. Plan on running an errand or engaging in a non-dog activity at the same time the family would usually leave on a school day. Gradually increase the length your dog is home alone. Avoid making a big fuss when you come or go – you want to show him that leaving is okay and you will be coming back. If your dog shows signs of anxiety when you leave him alone, contact a dog behaviorist right away. Separation anxiety is more easily treated when caught early.
All About Exercise: A tired dog is a happy dog, and a happy dog is going to be sleeping all day when you are gone, rather than eating your couch. Whether you take your dog out before work, or after, or hire a dog walker during the day, dogs are on their best behavior after exercise. Skip the dog park as your dog’s main source of exercise. Going for a walk or jog will not only increase the bond you share, but will help to meet your dog’s movement needs without over stimulating him.
Regular Feedings: What goes in must come out. Ensure your dog is fed with enough time to be able to go to the bathroom before he’s left alone. Holding it is not only uncomfortable but it’s also unfair. Feed your dog at the same time each day, as dogs thrive on routine… especially if that routine is about food! If summer meant lazy days and sleeping in, it’s time to get your dog back on his regular meal schedule.
Quality Time: Once the family is back at school and work, life can get busy. Be sure to set aside some quality time each day with your dog. A walk to the park or playing ball in the yard can be fun for the whole family. Spend time training your dog to do some new tricks, which will help keep his mind sharp. And quality time will reassure your dog that he is still loved and part of the family.
Consider Another Dog: If your dog was home all day with a doggy buddy, he’d still miss you, but he wouldn’t be alone. Shelters are full of dogs and cats looking for a forever home. The fact that you already have a dog, who is trained and used to a routine, will make adding a second dog to the pack much easier.
Kevin Roberts lives for adventure. Together with his pack of rescue dogs and his husband, he spends as much time outdoors as possible. Kevin lives by the motto: “Get outside and play with your dogs!”