By Leslie Ingraham
Published: 08/16/2021, edited: 08/16/2021
It's almost time to go back to school, and students are buying notebooks and other supplies for the coming academic year. They've spent the summer waking up pretty much whenever they wanted and having lots of time to play with the family pupster. Buster has sure been happy to have his people around, and probably doesn't realize that a big change is coming with the fall.
The return to school can be challenging for dogs and kids alike, as new schedules begin and the fur buddy's young pals are away from the house for longer periods of time. Your doggo may be totally unprepared for that first day, but we've got 5 furbulous tips to help you pup adjust to the start of a new school year. Let's take a look!
Sit down with the family and plan out the new morning and afternoon routine. Start a week or two before the big day so that everyone knows what it will look like. Be sure to set aside time in your plan for dog-related activities, like walkies and playtime.
During the week or two before school starts, practice the new routine with the pup, getting up earlier, preparing to leave the house, taking Fido for a walk and incorporating playtime so they’ll begin to look forward to the attention at the beginning of the day.
Leave the house for a short time in the morning so the pupster learns that people leaving at that time of day is normal. If the doggo is used to riding in the car to the store and other errands with you, leave them at home sometimes. The goal is to increase their confidence being home alone while getting accustomed to the upcoming changes.
If the pupster will be going to doggy daycare a few times a week or even every day, make a few practice runs so they meet their new humans and some of the doggos ahead of time.
Walking and playing in the morning before everyone leaves the house tires your pup out and makes it easier for them to relax and settle down for a nap or two during the day. If your pupster is a very active or working dog (think retrievers and terriers), you might consider hiring a dog walker to exercise them in the middle of the day, too. Contact with another person will be exciting for them, and a long walk may provide some doggy socializing opportunities! Doggy daycare, where they can run and play with the other fur-babies a couple of times a week, will tire them out as well.
If the doggo is going to be home alone all day, a few distractions may help them get through it more easily. For example, hand them a special toy when you leave, and put it away again at the end of the school day so they look forward to getting it to play with as you walk out the door.
Another excellent solution is to hide treats all over the house so they’ll be busy searching for and eating them. Try other food “tricks” like interactive toys that hold kibble, or a Kong filled with peanut butter or cream cheese. Freezing a Kong with food inside stretches the time it will take to get it all out.
Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety might find music or talk radio soothing. Consider leaving the stereo or radio on with soothing music and human voices. Another trick is to record the children reading aloud and playing it back during the day while they’re gone.
When the end of the school day comes, urge the children to come home right away to pay some special attention to Buster and organize a short playtime before heading out for after-school activities. However, if your routine means you'll be gone until later in the evening, hiring a dog sitter or walker for another round of exercise and cuddling isn’t a bad idea.
Quality time at the end of the day will reassure your fur-baby. Brushing your dog is soothing for both of you and tightens the bond between you. Or watch a TV program together before or after dinner. There are some dog-friendly shows and movies that would be pawrfect! Or tune into National Geographic for their videos about encounters with wild creatures.
Let your pup join and and take them to doggy school! Classes for basic training or agility training can be found in most communities, so consider enrolling Buster in an evening class. Attend with them and participate in the training. Between classes, the homework assignments will be to practice what you have both learned until the next class. This activity provides a stronger bond between you and gives you more opportunities for quality time for you and socializing for them.
Involving the children in training classes is a good idea, too. It provides them with a sense of responsibility for the pup while gaining satisfaction from the positive results! There are also ways to train your pup at home, so be sure to check out the training pages at Wag! to get more ideas!
Changes in routine and the absence of the kids may make a return to school stressful for your pupster, and if left unaddressed, might lead to destructive behaviors. Slowly introducing them to the new school time regime will go far to reassure them, and perhaps prevent separation anxiety and acting out. To learn more, check out guides about separation anxiety and other dog behavior topics at Wag!
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