“Well, I knew summer vacation was over this morning when I heard the alarm.
I fell out of bed, hitting the floor with my arm
and I knew one thing for sure…
I have the back to school blues.
I have my brand new back pack loaded up,
and brand new threads to head off to school.
My cell phone will be banned, so I will have to text from the can…
I definitely have the back to school blues.”
With all the confusion surrounding the kids heading back to school, many animal caregivers may not think about what it means for the dog. You may notice behavioral changes such as a sad dog who mopes around or sleeps most of the time…or she may start chewing on things she shouldn’t, but you may not even connect the unacceptable behavior with back-to-school time. Dogs need routine to make them feel secure. They like knowing that certain things happen at about the same time every day, and if the kids have been around all summer, playing with them, and suddenly they’re gone all day, it’s upsetting. Some pets just feel confused and sad, but others feel real separation anxiety and may need special attention to keep them occupied and stimulated during the long hours when parents are at work and the children are at school. It is important to curb unwanted behavior before it escalates into destructive habits.
- EXERCISE…EXERCISE…EXERCISE! A dog who has had a good walk in the morning is less likely to get into trouble during the day! A tired dog is a good dog! After the EVERY morning exercise session, give him something to do while you are gone.
- Maintain a regular schedule as much as possible, and keep comings and goings low key. No huggy/kissy “I’ll miss you” scenes that will only fuel anxiety in your dog. Have the kids ignore the dog for a few minutes before they leave, and after they return, to lower his excitement level and reduce any tension he may feel.
- “Find it” is a game he can play by himself. Hide a favorite toy or few healthy treats (baby raw carrots are good!) for him to discover. Don’t place them in spots where there are shoes or other items that you do not want him to chew….dogs don’t discriminate acceptable chew items from forbidden shoes or two-legs toys! Make sure the toys are safe…dogs love squeaky toys, but if your dog is a tenacious chewer, he could remove the squeaker and swallow it….NEVER leave a dog alone with any raw hide chew… I actually recommend NEVER giving rawhides to any dog at any time…they are not healthy treats, and if chewed and swallowed can cause serious blockages that often require surgery.
- All dogs should have at least a couple Kongs, uniquely shaped toys of durable rubber with hollow centers which can be filled with “good stuff.” Unstuffing Kongs can keep dogs contentedly busy for hours while they dig for the nuggets stuffed inside. A simple stuffing is just a little peanut butter rubbed inside the Kong, with a little kibble and a few doggie treats and maybe a couple small hunks of cheese added. If your dog has never had a stuffed Kong, make it easy to remove the stuffing at first, so that she will succeed at her removal activity. As she becomes more experienced, you may want to make the task more challenging by packing the stuffing tighter, or wedging biscuits (preferably healthy, homemade ones) inside the cavity using the inside rim of the opening to secure them. For creative ways to stuff your Kong, go to www.kongcompany.com.
Never punish your dog for anxiety or inappropriate behavior. If a dog misbehaves, it is because he is frightened or upset; he does NOT behave badly out of spite or to “get even”. No matter what he does during your absence, punishment will only intensify the problem. Good caregivers know that positive reinforcement, persistence, and patience can correct just about any difficult