Get Ready for the New Normal
Wasn’t it just 4th of July?
“…Summer is almost over…” Now it’s out there, sad, but too true. Even though Labor Day is as late as possible this year and it’s really not Fall until the autumnal equinox, for most of us, in a few precious weeks, our long warm days of vacation, relaxation and loose time schedules will be a fading memory. You and your children have probably spent much time with your dogs this summer. From playing outdoors in the yard, to swimming to cuddling up and watching movies in the evening — there’s no doubt that your family and pets have had time to bond.
Some Transitions are Easier than Others…
For your dog, making the transition from school’s-in-session to summertime fun is easy–instantly he has his buddies to play with all day long. They extend his walks, games and naps, even take him swimming. It’s heaven, those dog days of summer. But now it’s the reverse. Suddenly, your dog finds himself alone in a quiet house. Pets need to adjust to being left alone inside. Dogs crave routine, so transitioning back to the school-time routine can be difficult for them, even though this transition happens at this time every year.
Changes in routine can lead to anxiety in many dogs.
When the kids go back to school, some dogs will experience separation anxiety or become frightened by loud noises or sudden thunderstorms. Signs that your dog may be experiencing separation anxiety include the following behaviors when left alone: relieving himself in inappropriate places; destructive behavior such as digging and chewing, especially at doors or windows; vocalization including barking, howling, and whining. Dogs with separation anxiety often appear distressed as the family prepares to leave the home, and become overly-enthusiastic upon your return.
Time to Prepare for Back to School…
If you start making slow changes to your dog’s summer-time routine, by the time school starts, he should be well prepared. Slowly increase his “alone-time” in the space of the house or yard where the dog will stay when the family is away. About a week before the kids return to school, begin getting your dog used to their absence by leaving your dog home for short trips. Ideally, leave him inside early in the morning to simulate school time and to get him accustomed to the fact that long, lazy summer mornings are coming to an end. Also, start getting out the lunchboxes and other items your dog associates with leaving for school in the morning to de-sensitize them to any anxiety-producing cues prior to school starting.
Try exercising your dog before you leave the house. A tired pet is more relaxed and less likely to get into trouble when you’re gone. He’ll be much more likely to settle in quickly for a nap. Make your departure and return to the house low-key. For indoor dogs that will be spending several hours alone, a dog crate may be your best bet to prevent your dog from getting into accidents and injuring himself. In addition, the security of having one’s own space is comforting to many dogs. Be sure to leave food or a treat, fresh water, a blanket and favorite toy. The ideal crate size should be just big enough for them to comfortably stand up, turn around and stretch out. Rotate the toys you leave and use those that you can stuff with vegetables or dog food to keep your dog engaged while you’re away. For the first few weeks of the back-to-school routine, be sure to give your dog something exciting and different than what he’s used to. Whenever your dog is left alone, the sound of human voices or music can be soothing. Try leaving on the TV, some music, or a DVD made specifically for dogs whenever you leave your pet alone.
Remind the family that even though their schedules are now busier, they cannot forget about their dog. Create a daily routine that ensures your children and pets will continue to spend quality time together, including exercise and play in the morning, extra attention and play when they get home from school, exercise and “family time” in the evening. Even though your dog wasn’t at work or school all day, he still needs time to unwind. Now that your pets will be spending more time home alone it’s important to plan evening and weekend activities that include them, whatever it takes to re-connect. This ensures your dog gets the attention and love he needs and will help your kids learn to be responsible, caring pet owners.
Have Back Up Plan…
Remember, start these preparations early to make your dog’s transition to the new schedule one that he handles with ease. However, if your dog’s separation anxiety is more serious, consider easing their back-to-school transition with some help from a friend or neighbor who can stop in during the day or with some time at a local dog daycare. The benefits of daycare are physical and mental stimulation of the dogs with other healthy, socialized dogs. Dog socialization reduces behavior problems and improves the dogs’ relationships with people.
Cold Nose Lodge offers full day daycare every day of the week. We also offer half days of daycare Monday through Saturday. Call or stop by to sign your dog up for an evaluation to see if daycare is right for him.