Whether playing at the park or exploring the nearby woods, your dog spent all summer as your kid’s best friend. Now, as your child’s thoughts turn to school-related matters, your dog may feel left behind. Darcy is a dog who recently lost her human child to the back-to-school craziness. She is sharing excerpts from her diary with our team at Somerset Animal Hospital that will hopefully help your dog adapt to their new solitary status.
Darcy, an adopted, deserted dog: “Dear diary, after a fun-filled summer playing, swimming, and being the best friends ever, Janey abandoned me this morning without a backward glance. Did I do something wrong? Is she mad at me? Will she ever come back?”
Somerset Animal Hospital (SAH): Your dog does not understand the sudden routine upheaval when your child returns to the classroom. By changing your household routine two to three weeks before school starts, you can help your dog get used to the transition before they are left home alone. Make your family’s morning and evening regimen similar to the school year routine. When school starts, your dog will be accustomed to the new schedule, and will have an easier time adapting to the situation.
Darcy: “Dear diary, we usually spend the morning playing fetch or swimming in the lake. I have so much pent up energy! I guess I can run around the house for a little while, or find a tasty shoe to chew.”
SAH: An exhausted dog is a well-behaved dog. Have your child exercise your pet before heading out for the day. A vigorous game of fetch is a good way to fatigue them. Mental stimulation is also a good idea, and teaching them a new trick or game will help activate their mind. Physically and mentally wearing them out before your child says goodbye will help them settle down for a nap, as opposed to getting into mischief.
Darcy: “Dear diary, I am so lonely! I miss Janey terribly! I have never been so alone in my life! Maybe if I howl loudly enough, Janey will come back.”
SAH: During the summer, ensure your dog spends time alone during the day. You can leave them crated or in a designated room while your kids play outside or go on a playdate. This will help your dog get used to being on their own, and to realize that their family will be back.
Darcy: “Dear diary, I have nothing to do without Janey here. I am so bored! Maybe something in the garbage can is interesting.”
SAH: Leave numerous intriguing toys to keep your dog entertained, and switch out the toys frequently so they do not become bored. Food puzzle toys can encourage your dog to use their brain for a treat reward. You can also hide kibble pieces around your home for them to search for and find. Some dogs appreciate music or a television playing for entertainment and distraction.
Darcy: “Dear diary, I was about to knock over the garbage can when our neighbor came by to take me for a walk. We went to the dog park and had a great time! I’m pretty tired now, and I think I will take a nap.”
SAH: Break up your dog’s day. Hire a dog walker to come by and take them for a walk. If you have a dog-owning friend who is at home during the day, you can arrange for them to come by for a doggy play date. You can also consider taking your dog to a doggy day care facility a few times a week. Letting them engage with other pets and people will prevent boredom. Another option is adopting a buddy for your dog, because another pet in the house will make your departure less of an issue.
Darcy: “Dear diary, Janey finally came home, and we are best friends again. She had to do her homework when she first got home, but we played outside when she was finished. I am so happy to have her back.”
SAH: Ensure your family does not make a big emotional display when leaving or returning home. This will only signal to your pet that these moments are stressful and dramatic, which will increase their anxiety. Have your kids calmly tell your dog goodbye when they leave in the morning, and calmly greet your dog when they return home. After they have been home for a period, they can have more affectionate interactions.
Darcy: “Dear diary, after dinner the whole family went for a walk around the neighborhood, and then I got a nice long grooming session. I guess my family did not forget about me after all.”
SAH: Spend quality time with your dog when you are home, and ensure they know they are loved and valued. Dogs are social, affectionate animals, and they crave your attention. If they feel included when your family is home, they will be less likely to think you are abandoning them when you leave the house.
Darcy adapted nicely to the new back-to-school routine. Hopefully, these pointers will help your dog adjust well, too. If you are concerned your dog may have separation anxiety issues, do not hesitate to contact our team at Somerset Animal Hospital to schedule an appointment.