How to Help Your Dog Beat the Back to School Blues

Summer vacation is over, and the kids are back in school. Hopefully, the kids are adjusting well to the new school year, but what about their best buddy the dog? Children aren’t the only ones who get back-to-school blues. The family pets, used to weeks of constant play with their kid companions, can get upset when all that quality time disappears with the end of summer.

There are things we can do to help when Fido is down in the dumps over his summertime holiday ending. Knowing the signs to look out for and supporting their transition into quieter autumn days with these tips will perk up your pooch in no time.

boy hugging a pet dog

Signs of Anxiety in Dogs

“Back to school blues,” depression or anxiety appear as different behaviors in animals. Your pups may experience one or both of these conditions because of their newfound alone time.  While depression shows up as common behaviors associated with sadness, separation anxiety manifests itself in more unusual behaviors. Here are the most common signs of these temporary conditions:

Depression

  • Listlessness/low energy
  • Loss of appetite or picking at food
  • Hiding or removing himself from human contact
  • Loss of interest in play

Separation Anxiety

  • Excessive barking
  • Whining or crying
  • Frantic clawing at doors, windows, or fences
  • Destroying something–such as curtains, sofas, or your belongings
  • Some pets may have accidents in the house

Five Tips to Help Dogs With Back-to-School Blues

Make Your Departure a Happy Time While Avoiding Overstimulation

Keep your morning departures positive and happy, but avoid overstimulation or excitement (which can make them more anxious). Giving the pets some healthy dog treats, distracting them with some toys, and providing a couple minutes of soothing love and affection, will all help dogs feel less abandoned or sad. Leaving a TV or radio on at a low volume can also help them during the day.

Create a Safe Place in the House

Just as you have your special reading chair, knitting corner, or “man-cave,” pets need a special place to call their own as well. This is especially important to combat separation anxiety. Create a special space for each of them with their lounge bed, favorite toys, a couple of pet treats, and perhaps an item or two of yours. This will be their safe place they can go to whenever they feel lonely or anxious.

Consider a Dog Walker or Doggie Daycare or a Few Times a Week

With the kids in school and everyone at work, long stretches of alone time can be difficult. Utilizing your local doggy daycare or a dog walker a few times each week will not only give your pups exercise, but it will also provide them positive socialization with other doggies. Dogs are pack animals and generally enjoy hanging out together. This time out of the house will help break up the day for your pets.

Create a Consistent Morning and Evening Exercise Routine

Make it a habit to have some quality exercise time with your pups both before school and after dinner. Even if it is just a short walk or trip to the park, it will help the bond with you and your pet. After a bit, your dogs will know quality time is coming when you get home. Having this to look forward to will reduce their anxiety when you are leaving and throughout the day.

woman playing fetch with dog

Remove Separation Triggers From Objects

Just like their human parents, dogs also have emotional triggers. They often associate backpacks and briefcases with being left alone for the day. You may see them get agitated or loud just by seeing your kid’s backpack even before school starts. To help desensitize the trigger, walk around the house with a backpack or briefcase several times a day, praising or offering treats. When your dog learns to associate these objects with positive experiences, the trigger will be dissolved.

With this arsenal of tips, your pup is sure to have a smooth transition from summertime to the school year.

little girl spending time with her chihuahua

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