Back to School Doggy Blues
Photo Credit: Corinne Trively Photography
A new regular routine, busy schedules start to pickup again - no doubt about it, going back-to-school can be tough for your kids! But did you ever consider it could be tough for your family pets too?
Back to School Doggy Blues
With the kids back at school, dogs can easily suffer from separation anxiety. Here are some signs to look out for:
- Excessive Jumping
- Excessive Drooling
- Excessive barking
- Destructive chewing (furniture, clothing, carpeting)
- Scratching at doors or windows
- Over-grooming (excessive licking or pulling fur out)
- Potty issues inside the house (particularly on owner's possessions; shoes, backpacks, clothing)
The majority of these behaviors occur shortly after you leave your pet home alone - within 20-45 minutes typically.
What to do?
They've gotten used to seeing you, the kids and their friends on a more regular basis. The start of school marks the start of a new schedule for them too. So, just like what we do a our children, we need ease our pets back into a more structured routine before school starts.
First, A Word About Punishment. It can be very frustrating to come home to a mess, but you should NEVER EVER yell at or physically punish your pets. Your pets did not create this mess to get "even" with you nor are they "mad" at you for leaving them alone (which are very common myths). Physical punishment will only increase your pet's anxiety and will not solve the problem.
Prepare. Ideally you should start to ease your pets into a routine of comings and goings two weeks before. It is important to get them accustomed to being left alone. Step outside your door, wait a few moments and come back in. Slowly increase your time outside of the house, while your pets remain inside. Practice this a few times a day and this will help reassure your pets that you WILL come back through the door after you have walked out.
Running down the street chasing after your dog in your bathrobe or high heels is never a great way to start the morning. Teaching your dog to wait at the door when kids are running out to the bus is another great way to prepare for school and prevent your dog from dashing through the door on those busy mornings. Teach your dog to stay away from the door as people are coming and going through with a firm command to "Wait." Your dog should not move until the door is shut.
Make Parting Easy. Do NOT make a big deal of coming or going - no long goodbyes and no excited greetings when you come back home. This may confuse your dog and heighten their anxiety when you leave. Instead, 15 minutes after everyone has settled in at home, take your dog for a walk. Spending 15 minutes playing with your dog before diving into school homework or making dinner provides both needed exercise and reassurance for your dog that they still get your attention and love.
Make Alone Time Comfortable.
Provide comfort while you are away. Here's just a couple ideas.
- Add an old t-shirt you don't mind letting your dog lie on to their bedding. This can provide a comforting scent to your dog, helping make them feel more relaxed.
- Provide a favorite toy that they only get when you leave.
- Set up a scavenger hunt. Place different toys throughout the house for them to find and self reward.
- Turn the TV or radio on. A common noise that they are used to hearing while you are home. A Kong filled with peanut butter and treats (FROZEN) is a great treat that will occupy them for hours while you are away, just don't forget to freeze it first!
Doggy Daycare is another WONDERFUL option to consider. You can drop your dog off on your way to work or school and let your dog gets LOADS of playtime and socialization with other dogs as well as the human workers there! Best of all? Your dog comes home EXHAUSTED. A win-win in my book! With your dog tuckered out, it's that much easier to focus on making sure homework gets done and dinner is made!
If your dog's anxiety does not get better, consider visiting your vet and discussing other options to help relieve your dog's stress. Also - consider a natural medication which is a more healthier approach for your pets