Is your dog acting especially anxious now that everyone has headed back to school and work? Here are some ways to ease his or her separation anxiety.
If my dogs had to pick a least favorite month, it'd be September. After the hullabaloo of Summer, when foot traffic is high and laughter surrounds them, back to school spells one thing: BOREDOM.
Frantic activity in the days leading up to school can ratchet up the overall household anxiety level. Dogs may start to act out, hoping for attention. It's a good time to remember this favorite phrase—anytime your dog acts out, or your kids for that matter: My dog's on the rollercoaster; I'm on the park bench. The angrier you get, the more reactive your dog will be.
What can you do? Use the "C.U.R.E" method in the days leading up to and after the kids go back to school to help ease your dog's anxiety about being alone.
Create an Alone Zone. Proof an area from distractions. A dog crate is fine to use for 3 hours stretches. If you’re gone for longer periods, hire a dog walker or create an open play zone, proofed from temptations and decorated with a bed, water dish, papers (if you're using them), and chews.
Use busy toys and music to calm your dog after you go. Offer a chew and a puppy pacifier your dog loves as you're getting ready to leave.
Resist the temptation to reconnect or discipline the second you get home. Offer an obsession toy as you come in and let her calm down for 5 minutes before you praise and play with her. Correcting your dog for mischief or destruction will only reinforce her idea that separation is scary.
Exercise and play with your dog before and after you go out. Remember, the dog is crepuscular—they sleep during the day and are most playful morning and early evening. Play with your dog before you go out and after you return!
A couple more tips ...
Don’t forget to feed your dog and to check the water bowl. Newly busy kids can forget this chore, even if they were great at it all summer.
Exercise, exercise, exercise. A tired dog makes for a happy family. As silly as it sounds, even leashes walking your dog around the house as you rouse your family and do your morning tasks can exhaust her. Not only are you focusing her attention, but you can use the time to teach them useful directions like “Upstairs” and the names of your children. “Let’s go wake Julia.” Recognizing and identifying words helps dogs feel more connected and relaxed in your home.
If the destruction cycle continues, hire a professional to analyze and help you develop permanent solutions. And speaking of back to school, Fall is a great time to hone up on lessons and social skills, either in a class or one-on-one.
Having trouble communicating with your dog or puppy? Sarah Hodgson, aka the Happy Dog Mom, is here to help. She's written multiple best-selling books on dog training, and her next book, Modern Dog Parenting is out now. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website whendogstalk.com.