Ah, back to school time. Some parents are thrilled to have the kids out of the house, while others might be mourning the loss of their busy home. But at least one member of the family is certainly going to have trouble with the adjustment: the family dog. When kids go back to school, your dog’s world just went from regularly adventuring 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. Some 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 play time. 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 that 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 most 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.
Most importantly, remember that times of transition are hard on dogs, just like they can be challenging for kids. Be patient, add some fun, and be flexible as the entire family adjusts to the new school year.
Still concerned about your dog’s behavior? 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.