Let’s Beat Those Back To School Blues

Back-to-school time involves transition for the entire family, as parents and children begin to adjust to a new routine, but it is a confusing time for dogs who have enjoyed extra attention and playtime during summer vacation. Think about it—there is nothing better in a dog’s eyes than having his humans around for extended periods of time. When the kids go back to school, they have activity filled days with friends and fun and extracurricular activities often take some of the after-school time, keeping them ( and moms and dads) busy day in, day out. Suddenly the dog is left alone with lack of activity and attention!  Dogs are very attached to their humans, and it is difficult for them to suddenly spend 8 hours or more alone each day, and even when the children do come home, they are often busy with schoolwork or school activities. This can result in boredom and separation issues, which can cause a normally well-behaved dog to behave badly—barking excessively, chewing on furniture, or soiling in the house. Tactics to help the family dog transition to the new home-alone schedule include:

  • Pumping up the exercise. Don’t use busyness as an excuse for not spending time with your dog.  Schedule time EVERY day for some physical activity—a long walk, or an active round of fetch. (Leaving the dog alone in the yard does NOT count as exercise.)  Get up a little earlier to interact with the dog, which will make your dog feel less ignored, and will also lower his energy level so that he will be less likely to do something naughty.
  • Adding mental stimulation. To reduce boredom while everyone is gone, make your leaving a good thing. Buy some new SAFE toys and give them just before you leave so that they associate your leaving with getting something good. A stuffable, chewable toy like the Kong is a great toy to keep him occupied.  Something that has a familiar scent like a kid-scented T-shirt or sock will often comfort the dog.  Leave the TV or radio on. Animal Planet on TV can entertain the dog reassure him that everything is normal.
  • It is important to stay low key when leaving in the mornings. No big goodbyes. Just leave quietly without causing any anxiety.  And make returning “no big deal” too. It is especially important for dogs that have anxiety that you act calm, quiet, casual, and don’t immediately enthusiastically greet your dog. If you act like leaving or returning is not a big deal, then it won’t be a big deal for the dogs. When you come home after a long day, you may be tired, but after calmly greeting your dog, remember that he needs to be played with. A long walk, or playtime will get out all that pent up energy from the day and lets your dog know that you love him. It is also a stress reliever for the humans involved!
  • If at all possible, someone should go home during lunch to help relieve the stress of no one being home for 8 hours. If that is not possible, consider having a friend walk her, or paying a dog walker. Taking your dog to a doggy day care a couple times a week is a great option too.

A dog is not an “until” dog…..”Until you get too busy” or “until you have no time.”

A dog is a forever dog! You made a commitment to your dog, and keeping that commitment is not always easy, but it might make the difference between a happy dog and a destroyed house!

Mastering the Walk


Training your dog should be rewarding for both you and your dog, but I have a confession to share: this past week was NOT a rewarding time for either me or the dogs I was attempting to train. Sir Charles Tucker the Third is an awesome dog; we have been working with him for some time now and were quite confident that he understands the COME command, and will respond. Well, two rabbits crossed his path, his distraction level kicked in and Tucker took off. (I will never know if one rabbit could have been resisted!) Was I tempted to scold him? Absolutely. When he finally decided that the rabbits were gone, and he came back to me, was I a happy trainer? Absolutely not, but, remembering the advice from the experts that “Come” should always be a word that means joy, I realized that I could easily sabotage any progress that we had made. Instead, I accepted the fact that Tucker was not completely trained for instant recall, and recognized that really reliable recall takes lots of practice, lots of patience, and lots of treats.

Then there was the new dog that probably had never been on a leash. Walking politely by your side doesn’t seem like it should be a difficult task, but Andrew proved to be quite a challenge. Some dogs learn very quickly that the human is in control, but Andrew didn’t accept that idea. It took us more than ten minutes to just get half way down the driveway!

If you have a dog that pulls on the leash, simply stand still until he stops. Then praise him, and when he seems calm, proceed with your walk. Every time he pulls on the leash and you continue the walk, you are rewarding him for pulling. Why do so many dogs pull on leash? Simply because they can. They learn that pulling on the leash gets them where they want to go. They pull, and their humans follow. Professional trainer Pat Lee insists that dogs will walk in a calm, controlled manner when their caregivers are calm and assertive and praise the dog when he is following the command and stop immediately if he starts pulling. (We are hopeful that Andrew is beginning to understand that concept!)

Some tips to help you and your pet both enjoy the walk:

  • You need to have the right equipment. We do not recommend a retractable leash, because it is difficult to exercise control.
  • Always carry bags for cleaning up and disposing of dog poop—leaving dog waste is a health hazard and downright irresponsible.
  • Always practice safety first. Be aware of others coming up from behind you. Dogs do not like to be startled. Watch out for kids on skateboards or bikes. Many dogs don’t like motorcycles or even pedal bikes.
  • If you walk on small side streets without sidewalks, it is important that you allow yourself and your dog enough room so that cars are not a danger to you, and you are not a danger to the drivers.
  • Be consistent about reinforcing leash walking and not allowing leash-pulling, and insist that everyone who walks your dog follow the same procedures.

Not only will your dog benefit from a controlled walk, you get perks as well, by improving both your physical well being, and your mental well being. Walking your dog should be a pleasurable experience for both you and your dog…and one of these days, Andrew and I may enjoy walks beyond the driveway!

Fall has Arrived

It’s official… fall has arrived, and after an unusually hot, dry summer, most of us welcome a break from the heat, and enjoy the changing season. However fall is a time of many potential dangers for our four-footed companions. Our dogs may show signs of health problems, and just like humans, mild illnesses may resolve on their own, but we need to be alert to signals of health problems and act appropriately BEFORE the illness spirals out of control.

It is important to remember that fall is party time for fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes! When these pesky critters appear in the spring, responsible pet caregivers immediately begin to use pest protection programs for their animals, but many feel that once the weather has had a few cold days, the flea problem disappears. The fact is that fleas are more prevalent in the fall than at any other time of the year.

Throughout the summer, the flea population has increased, and as the weather cools down, they instinctively seek out warm places to survive and lay eggs. Unless flea preventatives are used well into the winter, problems associated with flea infestations including flea-bite dermatitis and possibly tapeworms may develop.

Ticks have been abundant this summer, and they are still alive and well! These pests are tough and can hibernate and survive very cold weather. Then there are mosquitoes which are more than just inconveniences, as they pose serious health risks! Unlike fleas and ticks that live on your dog, mosquitoes drop by for a quick meal, and then are gone, but they have the potential to transmit life-threatening diseases such as heartworm.

We encourage pet caregivers to be diligent in the consistent use of vet approved flea, tick and heartworm prevention products. It is easier to expend a little extra energy, time, and money to prevent these problems than it is to treat them!

Fall provides some of the best walking weather. Most animal caregivers underestimate their dogs’ exercise needs, but with this beautiful Fall weather outside. Grab a leash and a friend and hit the sidewalks or trails with your furbaby.

Remember that destructive behavior may lead to a diagnosis of separation anxiety or other behavioral problems, and while these conditions do exist, in many cases the behavior is actually the result of an energy surplus. According to animal trainer, Jenna Stregowski, before you blame your dog for inappropriate behavior, ask yourself if she is getting enough exercise. Many dogs need at least one or two hours of exercise EVERY day, and with everyone’s hectic lifestyle, most are lucky to get fifteen minutes. Because dogs cannot talk, we must rely on the signs that they give us when it comes to analyzing our dog’s health.

So get out there and get walking!