The back to school season brings a lot of changes. For some students, it means starting at a new school. And even for students going back to the same campus, their routine is going to be different than it was during the summer. These major routine changes tend to affect entire families including furry family members. After spending several months getting to be around family members more than usual, dogs can be caught off guard when the house is suddenly empty again.
It would be great if you could simply tell your dog that this change is completely normal and there's nothing to worry about. But since that's not possible, we want to share some helpful information on how you can help your pet manage this transition.
Understanding Separation Anxiety
When a dog struggles with the type of change brought on by back to school, separation anxiety is generally the root cause. The best way to think of this condition is as your dog's inability to handle being alone for longer periods of time. The severity of separation anxiety can range from the first few hours of being gone to feeling this way for the entire time the house is empty.
Crying, whining, barking, inappropriate urination, chewing, drooling, and pacing are all tell-tale signs of separation anxiety. While a single sign may not be related to separation anxiety, multiple signs that occur around the time of a significant transition are likely related to your pet feeling upset about the change.
How to Help Your Dog with Separation Anxiety
Consistent exercise and quality dog food are two of the most important things for pets to enjoy the highest quality of life. Once you've got those taken care of, there are several strategies to help reduce separation anxiety. The first is to ensure your dog has plenty to do during the day. This can be new toys or having someone come by to walk your pet. Another option to consider is a doggy daycare. Putting your dog in an environment where it can play and socialize with other pooches can boost its mood while your family is away from home.
Another strategy that may seem counter-intuitive at first is to pay less attention to your dog in the hour or so before you leave. By keeping things like petting and playing to a minimum during this time, you can help keep your dog from getting worked up. Then when everyone in the family comes home in the evening, keep a calm demeanor for the first half hour. From there, you can all enjoy playing and spending time with your dog. Over time, this strategy will help your dog be less reactive about its family members leaving and returning.