You have replenished your children’s wardrobe, and bought all the necessary back-to-school items. Before they get on the bus, ensure your dog will be able to adjust to these new circumstances. Your dog likely has enjoyed having their small humans around all the time, and they may not be too happy to see them leave. Such a major change to your dog’s normal routine can trigger separation anxiety, a condition that is characterized by signs such as a lapse in potty training, excessive vocalization, digging, chewing, and attempting to escape. These behaviors can injure your pet and damage your home. Our team at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital wants to help make the transition easier for your dog with these tips.
#1: Change your dog’s routine at least two weeks before school starts
This tip will also help your whole family adjust to the change in routine. About two weeks before school starts, wake your kids when they would need to come down for breakfast, and start putting them to bed when they would need to go to sleep during the school year. Starting these time changes before your kids actually return to school will help your dog acclimate to the routine changes before being left at home alone.
#2: Get your dog used to spending time alone
You can start by leaving your dog crated while your kids play in another room or outside. Ensure they have food puzzle toys to distract them, and get them used to not being around your kids at all times. Let your kids go away for periods during the day, so your dog learns they are not being abandoned, and that the kids will come back.
#3: Give your dog a thorough workout before your kids leave for school
You can include this in the new routine two weeks before school starts. Ensure your dog exercises strenuously and is physically exhausted before everyone departs for the day. You can also engage their minds by teaching them new tricks. If they are physically and mentally worn out, they will be less likely to have enough energy to get upset when your kids leave.
#4: Make your kid’s departure drama-free for your dog
When your kids leave in the mornings, they should calmly pat your dog on the head without excessive emotional displays. Your dog picks up on their humans’ emotions, and will become anxious and upset if they believe their humans are anxious and upset. This can set in place a precedent that can escalate. Also, your kids should not make a big fuss when they return home. They should greet their dog, start playing or doing their homework, and then come back to pet and play with them later.
#5: Leave entertainment for your dog
Keeping your dog distracted and free from boredom can help them get through the day.
- Distract your dog with food-puzzle toys when your kids leave the house.
- Hide dry kibble pieces around the house, and let your dog forage for the treats while you are gone.
- Provide a padded area near a window to keep them intrigued, as they watch the neighborhood wildlife.
- Leave on the television or play music to keep them company while you are away.
#6: Arrange for your dog to get out of the house
You can hire a dog walker to get your dog out of the house and help break up their day. If you have a neighbor who has a dog and stays home during the day, you can set up a playdate so your dog has a pal to keep them company. Also, consider taking your dog to a doggy day care facility for a few days during the week. Letting them interact with other dogs and people will help keep them mentally stimulated and engaged.
#7: Adopt a new pet to keep your dog company
If you can, consider getting a live-in pal for your dog. Another pet can help break your dog’s reliance on you and your kids for companionship. Ensure your dog would accept another dog or a cat before introducing a new addition to your home.
#8: Consider medicating your dog
If your dog continues to have anxiety issues, ask the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-certified team at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital if medications, such as a mild sedative or an anti-anxiety drug or supplement, would be right for your stressed out dog.
Going back-to-school can be a stressful time for you, your kids, and your dog, but these tips will hopefully help your dog adjust to the new routine quickly. If you would like to set up an appointment for a behavior consultation, or if you have any other concerns about your dog, do not hesitate to contact our Fear Free team at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital.