It’s the most wonderful time of the year….back to school! Yes, moms and dads, aunties and uncles, grandmas and grandpas all quietly rejoice when those precious little bundles of potential backpack up and head off to the bus stop…then just as quietly panic when they realize that fall doesn’t just mean back to school, it also means back to fall sports, music lessons, scouts, and any and all other extra-curricular activities that took the summer off and are ready to get back into the swing of things. Yes, fall is the start of many families’ “busy schedule” and while looking at the post-Labor Day calendar can be scary it’s also kind of exhilarating.

However, there’s one member of the family who might not be so excited about the new fall line up. In fact, he might just find the whole thing plain confusing. The family dog, let’s call him Spot. As a dog, Spot loves routine and lives for those special little treats he counts on during the day. Going out for a piddle in the morning, a cup of dog food at 6pm, and walks after dinner. He also loves having the whole family home in the summer and when everyone suddenly disappears on September 5, it’s a shock! That’s why it’s super important for Spot’s family to pay some special attention to him in the 2-4 weeks after school starts, when he’s getting used to the new family schedule.

Paying extra attention to your dog when school starts is important because if he is confused or upset by the change in routine there are a few different ways he might show it and chances are you won’t like any of them. He might get lethargic and seem like he just doesn’t have any energy. On the opposite side of the spectrum he may run around and bark excessively. You might even come home after a long day at work, school, and everywhere else to find that he’s chewed your couch to shreds or destroyed your favorite shoes. If any of these happens in the first month or so after going back to school don’t think that he’s a “bad dog.” Instead it’s very possible that your dog is having a little trouble with depression, anxiety, or even boredom. All of the above behaviors are signs that your dog is having a bit of trouble with the new routine and needs your help adjusting. So what can you do?

First, understand that your pet needs some extra TLC, the same way a human going through a transition may. Carve out some time for an extra walk, session of fetch or Frisbee, even belly rubs. These activities help your dog remember that even though things around the house are different, he’s still loved and never forgotten. Next, keep routine where you can. Have a set time of day for feeding or walks and stick to it as much as possible. Your dog will learn the schedule and come to look forward to those set parts of his day. If your dog starts to trigger anxious behavior like whining, barking, or racing around when certain items come out like your purse, backpack, or lunchbox, try to desensitize him to those items. Walk around with them when you’re not going out so that he stops seeing them as something that means you’re going away. Go out of and into the house several times a day for only a minute or two so he learns that it’s OK for you to leave and that you’ll return.

Finally, hold tight. It takes anywhere from 2-4 weeks for a dog to learn a new routine and during that time he needs your extra patience. Eventually he’ll get back in the swing of things just like the rest of your family!

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