How to Handle your Pup's Back to School Blues

It’s been a wild year and a half as the pandemic has changed our lives in many ways. Your children may have been taking part in virtual learning, or doing school work from home “off-and-on” over the past school year. Now add in summer break, and you’ve likely had a lot of family togetherness!

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One member of the family who has certainly benefited from all of this family time is the family dog. But now that the kids are gearing up to go back to school, your dog’s world may go from regular adventures with the whole pack to long hours home alone.

Will your dog be terribly lonely? And if so, how can you help your dog adjust once the house empties out?

First, know that a quiet house and dull routine will affect all dogs differently. While dogs are pack animals who normally do prefer to be with others, some dogs may welcome the quiet – especially older dogs. Certain breeds of dogs do better with alone time than others, and some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and can rarely be left alone at all. But in general, dogs do prefer to be with people, so you can help all dogs be happier alone by taking a few steps.

TIPS TO HELP DOGS DEAL WITH BEING HOME ALONE

  • Play when you can. When you (and the kids) are home, give your dog plenty of attention and playtime. Go on long walks. Throw the ball. Take the dog swimming. Do the type of bonding – as well as energy release – that your dog enjoys when you have the time to do so: mornings, evenings and weekends.
  • Let dogs be dogs. Dogs are generally social animals that were bred to perform jobs (hunting, retrieving, herding). So, your dog will be happiest when he gets to do these things. When you have the time, consider taking your dog to the dog park to be social with other dogs. Play fetch with your retriever, and go on long hikes with your herder. When your dogs feel stimulated and purposeful for part of the day, it will help them deal with the lazier hours when you’re gone.
  • Give toys and games. If your dog enjoys puzzle balls, chew toys, or even watching TV, leave these items out (or hide them if your dog likes scavenger hunts) so your dog has something fun to do while you’re gone. This is especially important for dogs who are big chewers; leave them something to chew, or the dog may chew up other items in the house.
  • Consider a dog walker. If you and the kids are gone all day, you may need to hire someone to check on your dog. Many dogs can’t last all day without a bathroom break, and many dogs need long mid-day walks to behave better. A daily dog-walker will get your dogs the exercise, stimulation and social time they crave.

The return to normal life, while wonderful, is still an adjustment for us all. Through each stage, it’s important to remember that these times of transition are also hard on dogs. They miss their playmates and the normal rhythms of family life. Try to be patient with your pup, add some fun, and be flexible as the entire family adjusts to the new school year.

Have more questions or concerns about your dog’s health or behavior?

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Animal Clinic of Woodruff’s vets offer behavioral advice as part of your well checks. Make an appointment today if you need to talk about your dog’s behavior.

Posted in Pet Behavior

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