Mothers all across America are jumping for joy as the kids head back to school. No more having to entertain them, plus the house will actually be quiet and the kitchen won't always be a mess.
However, there is someone who may not be so excited as the kids leave for the classroom because he or she will be left behind- your dog. As the days get shorter and the kids have homework and sports, this generally means less time with your dog.
Like kids, dogs love routine because they are creatures of habit. And like a kindergartner on her first day of school, your dog may experience some separation anxiety.
Often when I leave, my dog gives me the sad eyes, and in a sing song vice I say: "Don't worry, I will be home soon." First, do I think he can understand English? No! Second, my dog already feels anxious and my tone almost indicates it's okay to feel anxious (my Bark Busters trainer set me straight). Therefore, it is best to ignore your dog as you're leaving and not say a word.
- Start early: At least a week before your children go back to school, get your dog used to being alone. Begin by separating your dog from the kids and the rest of the family. For example, if you frequently take your dog with you to the store, leave him at home.
- Pay less attention to him: Dogs may be the center of
attention when the children are home. You need to change this scenario before
the children return to school so that your family dog can adjust more quickly
to the quiet time. Pay less attention to your dog for increasing amounts of time
about a week before school and extend the amount during the days that follow.
Dogs love kids because they are bee hives of activity. Boredom is one of the top reasons that dogs misbehave. Plus, dogs who suffer from separation anxiety try to ease their stress by chewing, digging, and barking.That's why it's best to try and desensitive him by leaving him alone for longer and longer periods of time. Ideally, leave them inside early in the morning to simulate school time. You only need to leave them for thirty minutes or so to get them used to the fact that the lazy days of summer are coming to an end.
If your dog is now going to be alone most of the day, here's some tips to ease his boredom.
- Toys. Dogs love toys, but they can quickly get bored with or destroy them. Try the indestructible puzzle toys that hold treats like the Buster Cube and KONG products that you can easily pick up at Petsmart.
- Scatter food. Dogs are natural foragers who enjoy looking for food on the ground. Scatter bits of raw vegetables, dog kibble and other foods that won't attract wasps around the yard when you leave. Hide some treats so your dog spends extra time looking for them ... like an Easter egg hunt! Make sure you leave him lots of fresh water to drink.
After being alone all day, a dog can get rambunctious and cause even more chaos as the kids bust through the door from school. Train your children to avoid going right to the dog's area as soon as they get home. Have them ignore the pet for five minutes to allow him to settle down.
Remember that even though your dog wasn't at work or school all day, he still needs time to unwind. Maybe it's time for your dog to go back to school too and reinforce some of your obedience training!