Singing the “Back-to-School Blues”
by Claudia Bensimoun
The “Back-to-School Blues” not only affect parents, but their dogs too. A suddenly empty and silent home can be stressful and strange for your dog. This can lead to behavioral and eating problems stemming from boredom, anxiety and loneliness. Some dogs even become aggressive if left alone all day. Dogs are extremely social and most enjoy being around their families.
Here are a few tips on making the adjustment easier for Fido:
Get Fido used to being alone again. This is called ‘alone time’ but should only be done in small increments of time to start with. It is later extended until the school day ends and the kids are back home.
Keep Fido active. This could mean instead of taking him out twice a day, increasing his walks to three times a day. Encourage the kids to participate in walking Fido, taking him for mini walks when they are home .This is a great way to combine exercise for your kids and Fido. It has been proven that kids who walk their dogs have a stronger bond with their dogs than kids that don’t. Remember also that a fast paced walk after school improves your dogs’ health and gets rid of any excess energy.
Take Fido with you to school to drop off the kids. Dogs simply love this and actually look forwards to jumping in the car and leaving for school. They get to see where their favorite siblings spend their day. It is also reassuring for them to know where everyone has gone to after the summer holidays. Wait until after school ends and Fido will soon be ready to jump right back into the car to bring his favorite family members right back to where they belong. This time with a huge grin and tail wag.
Include Fido in homework and reading time with the kids. This is where it gets really interesting. Smaller breeds do well sitting on couches or right up on the table next to the homework. Some miniature breeds insist on being right up there next to the pile of homework. Fido will gaze admiringly at the kids and this has been proven to improve homework and especially reading skills. Children love reading to their favorite canines or solving a math’s problem out aloud. This in turn encourages bonding.
Leave a reminder at home. A favorite has always been to leave a kid scented t shirt, old sneaker or sock. Something that has a familiar scent .This will calm him. If he has access to a bed, next to a window overlooking the driveway, make sure that the blinds are open for him to see you returning from school or work.
Schedule some couch potato time. Disney Channel or Animal Planet on the television can leave Fido fully entertained and your home won’t feel so quiet. It will also reassure him that everything is still the same and that his favorite family members will soon be back to watch the same channel. After all, Disney was on during the summer so nothing has really changed.
Stay low key when leaving in the mornings. This is perhaps the most important step you can take. Car keys, backpacks and lunch boxes are clinking and clanging – and Fido is waiting by the door waiting to be included in all this back-to-school excitement. If you cannot bring your dog with you to do drop off, then the next best thing is to leave quietly without causing any anxiety.
Reduce the stress. Avoiding stressful situations or changes in routine such as feeding or exercise times will also help your dog to adjust to the new back-to-school routine .If your kids are fed an hour earlier with back to school, then try feeding Fido at the same time.
Keep Fido involved in your routine as much as possible. If either parent works from home, this is an ideal time to spend extra quality time with your dog. This means quality alone time. Longer walks or runs. Trips to the pet store. Taking him to the beach, stables or Dog Park and basically enjoying that one on one time with him. Dogs live for this. This will increase his self confidence and there is no limit to the amount of fun you can have together.
Use the Buddy System. This is not the solution for every situation, but a few experts suggest bringing home another dog to keep Fido company if he is to be alone during the day .Dogs love company and do not enjoy being alone.
Keep boredom at bay with interactive dog toys. These toys are fun, and a mental workout for your dog. The dog pyramid in a bright red plastic is a safe, chewable toy. Air Kong squeaker tennis balls and squeaker bones are also safe favorites. Remember that these interactive toys cannot replace you for a long period of time but will keep boredom and destruction at bay. Buying Fido new interactive toys at around the same time that back to school supplies are bought is always fun. Your dogs rely on you. Their daily routine can be a big challenge if not enough mental stimulation is given, especially to puppies and young adult dogs. During the first week of school, try giving Fido a new interactive toy 30 minutes before leaving home. This can help to prevent that listless pacing around and encourage him to play with his new toy and not focus on everyone exiting the house.
Get your pet sitter involved in the process. Busy pet owners cannot always devote the time it takes to implement these ideas and activities. Your pet sitter can help with most of the tips outlined in this article. A 30-minute visit can break up your pet’s time alone while providing the exercise and one-on-one attention that can help prevent your pet’s “Back-to-School Blues.”
Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety and other forms of stress when left alone. This can show up in cases of mild whining, lethargy, panic attacks and aggression towards humans and other dogs. Some dogs even plan their escape routes as soon as the front door is opened. Others will simply follow you around before you leave and whine all the while refusing to eat and appearing ill.
Dogs read our emotions clearly. By making very little fuss as everyone leaves for school and work, and by changing your dog’s associations with everyone’s activities as they leave, Fido will be less anxious and stressed. Your dogs rely on you, so it’s important to create your schedule around their needs. This can be challenging for everyone, especially if you have things to do after school and work. In the end, your organized schedule should make the time you spend with Fido more enjoyable.
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