It’s almost September, and you are probably preparing the kids to head back to school – but what about transitioning your dog? Over the summer your kids and dog have most likely been spending a lot of time together forming a strong, consistent bond. Just as your children must adjust to a new routine, so must your dog!
This change in routine can be a direct catalyst to separation anxiety and possibly depression for your dog, which can result in destructive behaviors such as chewing inappropriate objects (furniture, your shoes, the garbage!), obsessive barking or crying, running away from home, and abnormal accidents left in the house.
Separation anxiety is a common result which must be managed with a careful intention. There are several ways to attempt to head off separation anxiety, with the best plan implemented ahead of the actual time that you or your kids go back to school. Assuming that your dog has been evaluated for medical issues other than anxiety, here are some ideas as to how to manage separation anxiety:
- Set a Consistent Schedule – Meals, exercise, and bathroom breaks should be as close to the same time every day as possible.
- Slowly Acclimate to Time Alone – Before the kids actually go back to school full time, begin leaving your dog alone for short periods of time.
- Exercise, Exercise, Exercise – Provide plenty of exercise for your dog before leaving them home alone.
- Occupy Your Pup’s Mind –Leave some well known, non-destructible toys with your dog for entertainment (for example, a KONG with frozen yogurt & peanut butter inside).
- Keep Things Calm –Teach the kids to make a calm exit without too much emotion and fanfare.
- Send Your Dog to School Too –Have your dog attend a doggy daycare if they will otherwise be left alone for long periods of time
While the destructive results of separation anxiety can be frustrating, it can also cause serious health problems with your dog. They may refuse to drink or eat, and may vomit or have diarrhea resulting in dehydration. Also, depression can impede the normal activities of the immune system, leaving the dog susceptible to diseases.
Please feel free to contact our staff at Beantown Bed & Biscuit to help transition you dog “back to school”. Our daycare program is always available for your dog to come play with new friends, our training staff is able to help you with your specific behavior management/modification needs, and our veterinary team is able to help define the best approach to anxiety management for your dog.
Dr. Amy Straut, DVM, CCRT
Beantown Bed & Biscuit