Back To School Blues: Pets and Change

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September 15, 2014
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For some of us, school has started and for others, we are getting our kids ready to embark on their first semester of college. The summer routine of day camps and small weekend getaways will end and your dog may be find her/himself alone again for 8 to 9 hours a day. With the hustle and bustle of getting kids ready for school, buying the new bookbags, school supplies, and planning the new schedules, your pup will know something is up and may wonder what it going on. You may notice your dog acting a little more needy, whining a little more, and maybe even acting up a little. Don’t fret, just make sure you have scheduled play times, walks, and other special times that you and your dog spend together.

Once school starts though, keep an eye on your pup for the following signs of loneliness and boredom:

Depression and anxiety – dogs do experience these feelings and may show signs of it by being listless, not eating as much, hiding, and not wanting to play. Some dogs may show their anxiety in excessive barking, pawing at the doors, windows, and fences to get out, chewing on things they normally don’t touch, and being overly excited when you come home.

Relieve the chances of depression and anxiety

If this is your dog’s first time experiencing the kids going back to school, it will take some time for your dog to adjust. If your pup has been through this change, s/he may remember and fall back into routine with everyone else without much stress. Either way, though, it is important to make sure your dog is given the time and attention needed to alleviate stress. You and your dog will both be happy for the breaks from running around to the stores. A simple walk or game of fetch is good for you too!

Morning – Exercise in the morning before everyone runs off to school and work can help your dog burn off some energy and romp around before the day starts. After breakfast and a potty break, your dog may nap while everyone is gone. Meaning your house will be in one piece when you come home.

When it’s time to go – Try to not make a big deal of saying goodbye. A pat on the head and if you crate your dog, a simple, “see you later” will do. Don’t get emotional. You’ll be home later and your dog will settle down. If your dog does have some anxiety, leaving a radio or tv on can help. Talk to your vet if your dog has extreme displays of anxiety and talk to a trainer or think about enrolling your pet in doggie daycare.

Home again – When you come home, walk in and put down your bags and take off your coat. Don’t make a big deal and baby talk your dog to death. You may even need to ignore your dog for a few minutes. Calmly greet your dog and take her/him out for a bathroom break and walk or romp in the yard.

After dinner – Once everyone has had their dinner, including your pup, it is time for another session of exercise. 20 minutes of playtime or a walk will help your dog burn off some energy and have time to bond with you. You could have the kids have a scheduled playtime with the dog before or after they do their homework. Whatever works for your house – go for it. The most important thing is that your dog gets some evening exercise and attention before bedtime.

A favorite toy – save a favorite toy that your dog loves and have the children give it to him/her just before they leave for school. When the kids come home, put the toy away so it remains that “special” and trains your dog to know that the kids going to school means that toy comes out and keeps it as as a more positive experience that the kids are gone.

Encourage the children to play everyday – between video games, homework, and friends, your kids need to be reminded that the dog also needs time with them. Try to get them to all play for a little bit when they come home with the dog. A game of fetch or tag with the family dog will make everyone happy.

It’s so easy to get caught up in things and let the pets in our house end up being pushed down the list of things to do. Of course we will never forget to feed them or clean up after them but we may forget to make the time needed to keep them happy as well as us. Having routines is important for us just like them. Plus, you can view the pet time as those moments when you aren’t dragged around between work, family, and other tasks. The time with your pet is the time to just say, “ahhh” and relax. So make the best of it and if you still find your dog is experiencing emotional problems, talk to your vet and a trainer.

Good luck!

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