Help Prevent Your Dog From Having The ‘Back to School Doggie Blues’
Veterinarian Reviewed on August 29, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM
Posted in Behavior Management
Sadly, the summer holidays are finally coming to an end and children and adults are getting ready to go back to school, college and work. While this is a fun and exciting time, especially for young children starting school for the first time, this can also be a time of unease for your dog.
During the past few months your family pet has probably spent every waking moment with either yourself, your child or with your entire family at once. They have become used to a routine in which their favorite person is always around to play with them and feed them.
However, it’s ‘back to school’ time and that means that your pet’s favorite person will not be at home for at least 8 hours a day. This can cause separation anxiety for your pet and he may exhibit odd behaviors, such as chewing on the furniture, scratching at the doors and windows, continual barking or meowing, over grooming and even soiling their owner’s possessions. The majority of these types of behaviors usually occur within 20 to 45 minutes after you have left your pet home alone.
If you come home to a mess that your dog has made, do not make the assumption that your dog is mad at you for leaving him at home by himself all day. That is not true; rather your dog is suffering from separation anxiety.
Not to worry though as there are quite a few things that you can do now to help prevent your dog from suffering from the ‘back to school’ blues.
If there are still a few weeks left before school and work start back up again, try to get your pet accustomed to being home alone. An easy way to do this is to go out for a few hours each day and leave your pet at home.
If you only have a few days left before school and work starts, you can try help your dog by not paying so much attention to him as he has been getting over the summer holidays. Although this is easier said than done, your dog will need to have gotten used to being alone and learn to amuse himself whilst the rest of the family is away.
Get your dog used to the concept of the front door. Open the door and walk outside for a few minutes, closing the door behind you. After a while walk back inside again. Practice this a few times a day if possible as this will help ease your pets mind about you leaving the house and will quickly realize that you will walk back in through the door after you’ve walked out.
Once school and work has started, try to make the morning routine as hassle and event free as possible. Do not give your pet a long good bye as this will only confuse him.
Another really great tip is to leave the television or radio on during the day for your pet. The familiar sounds and voices will help your dog feel secure. Also make sure that you leave your dog’s favorite toys scattered around the house. This way your dog will have his own little scavenger hunt to find his toys. Not only will this keep his mind occupied, it will also make him feel comfortable being surrounded by his familiar toys.
If you know that your dog already suffers from separation anxiety, leave a pile of unwashed clothes lying on the floor. Your dog will be able to sniff the scent of the family members and will feel more relaxed.
As soon as you get home in the afternoon or evening, immediately take your dog outside for a walk around the block or play a game of fetch in the backyard. This helps in reassuring your love for your pet as well as helping your pet get the daily exercise that he needs.
If you would still like to avoid any possibility of separation anxiety in your dog, then consider taking your dog to a doggie day camp. Here your dog will get plenty of playtime with other dogs as well as attention from the human care givers.
Remember to never punish your dog for acting out if he has separation anxiety as it is a panic response and not disobedience.
Some veterinarians will suggest that your dog gets a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication. Think about this carefully before agreeing to it as you do not want to have a drugged-up doggie all the time.
An herbal formula, like Stress Gold, is a perfect alternative to doggie Prozac. It contains herbs that help to calm your dog, thereby reducing hyperactivity and anxiety without any chemical side effects.
Photo Credit: greeblie
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan