Has your dog been acting a little strange since school started back up? There could be a very good reason why, separation anxiety. Dogs are creatures of habit; they enjoy and thrive on having a routine and pattern to their daily lives. This is why when children are gearing up to go back to school in the fall, this transitional time can be a source of stress and discontent not just for children and parents, but our canine companions as well. Just a little understanding and preemptive measures can ensure that dogs are ready for the transition back to school and won’t be terribly upset when the children are suddenly gone for much of the day.
Separation anxiety is common for dogs when children or adults go away for long periods of time. Dogs can act out with destructive behavior or by barking a lot when they experience separation anxiety. To help combat this, about a week before school starts, begin to leave your dog alone for a while. Go out shopping, go to the park or the movies. Separate for a few hours at first and then gradually build up to longer periods of separation as this will help your dog be better prepared when the school year starts. As well, make conscious efforts not to treat your dog as the center of attention. When you are preparing to leave somewhere, ignore your dog for at least 10-15 minutes before vacating the house. If your dog is upset when you leave, be sure not to reassure the dog with a sweet, high-pitched voice as they will often interpret this as a sign that their behavior is acceptable.
Dogs sleep a lot through the day but intermittently when they are awake, they will often want to be occupied and have something to do. If there is nothing obvious for them to play with, they can exhibit destructive behaviors so you should consider leaving some toys out that are easy for your dog to find and play with. Be sure the toys are indestructible, and rotate which toys you leave out each day so dogs don’t get tired of them quickly. If your dogs stay outside or can easily move between the house and the backyard, it can be a good idea to hide some snacks outside for dogs to find, like a scavenger hunt. Many dogs enjoy digging and while you don’t want your entire yard dug up, you can encourage them to dig in a designated spot by burying their favorite toy or pieces of cheese in the digging pit.
Whether dogs are outside or inside, they like to have their own little “shelter,” a place that is just theirs, much like humans enjoy their own bedroom with their own bed. So when you and your children will be gone for much of the day, it’s a great idea to be sure your dog has a place of their own, either inside or outside. This might mean a dog house if they will be outside, a crate if they are inside, maybe a little bed in the laundry room (if you’re worried about your dog needing to go to the bathroom during the day, as most laundry rooms have tile which is easy to clean), or even just a doggie bed somewhere in the house. Having a place that is just theirs will help your dog feel safe, comfortable, and secure.