Back to School
Back to School
Summer is officially over. It may not feel that way outside, but kids are back to school this week and the daylight hours are dwindling. All that free time at home and extra hours playing outside are over, for you and for your dog. As the school year routine kicks into full gear, it is important to remember that this is a big change for your dog, as well, especially for new dogs that have not gone through this with you before. As the thermostat begins to fall and the humidity finally ebbs, your dog may actually have more energy now than in the heat of summer, just as you have less time to burn.
There are a few things to keep in mind as you get ready for the new school year. One of the most important is to know that dogs can suffer from depression and anxiety, and often demonstrate these issues through improper behavior. Depression often manifests in listlessness, cowering and not wanting to play, while anxiety can lead to destructive behavior, house soiling and vocalization. Both of these can be stressful for you and for your dog. In order to avoid this type of behavior and emotion, you can set up a routine for you dog (remember last week’s blog on rituals? http://perfect-pooch.com/rituals-what-they-are-how-they-can-be-awesome/) to help them adjust to the new changes.
Over the summer your dog may have gotten used to sleeping in a little bit, sporadic exercise throughout the day, and long evenings in the yard or walking around town. To combat the new earlier schedule and increased time alone, plan to help your dog get some energy out before you leave for the day. Go for a morning walk or assign a kid to fetch duty before school. If your dog is going to be crated for longer periods of time, consider daycare or a dog walker to break up the monotony of the day. You can also set your dog up for success by giving them something to occupy their time and get out some nerves. Puzzle toys and frozen kongs© are great ideas for that. Remember that leaving and coming home can become ritualized and potentially stress inducing if you make a big deal about it. If it seems like a big deal to you, you can bet your dog will think it should be a big deal to them too. Keep exits and entrances calm, maybe even begin a new game of fetch the toy when you come home so that your dog is not getting rewarded by jumping all over you to greet but by running away and returning with something fun.
It’s important to remember that while you have had a long day and the kids may have homework or afternoon activities to attend to, your dog has not done much during the day. While it may seem a nuisance to deal with between dinner prep, evening obligations, etc., your dog needs extra attention when you are home to make up for the time when you weren’t during the day. This is a good time to begin a pattern of play or walks followed by an independent activity like chewing or foraging. You may notice a theme here with chews and puzzle toys at this point. They are awesome! In fact feeding your dog out of a bowl is a waste of time. They eat quickly then they are bored again. Feeding some or all of your dog’s meal in a toy keeps them engaged and active while you can focus on other tasks secure in the knowledge that your dog is not feeling neglected.
Back to school for you can also be a good time for your dog to get back to the basics. Training has infinite benefits for you and your dog and can be a great way to stimulate their mind when it is not nice enough out to stimulate their body. The end of summer brings on changes for everyone, some welcome and some less anticipated, but with a little bit of forethought you can help your dog adjust to their new routine.
Head Trainer- Perfect Pooch
BA, CPDT-KA, AKC CCGC Evaluator