Guest Author - Debra Kelly
By mid-summer, many parents are already looking forward to the start of the school year and many kids are already dreading it. But amid the chaos of making sure that all the school supplies are at the ready and schedules have been finalized, there's one family member that can easily be overlooked - your dog.
For weeks, your dog has had the kids at home; this means playmates and their friends, it can mean longer hours with the family and being included on more family outings. But he doesn't understand why his littlest friends are suddenly gone all day, and this can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. Suddenly their days have become lonely, with the kids away at school and the parents away at work.
What are some signs that your dog might be suffering more than kids faced with piles of homework, assigned reading and other daunting tasks?
A well-housetrained dog may start having accidents in the house. He may begin to chew things you know he's well aware of being off-limits, or start to dig in the yard. Behaviors might become obsessive; a dog that was a casual chewer of rawhides might finish off one in a day, or one that likes to look out the window might pace and fret. Neighbors might be able to tell you of incessant howling or barking, or he may even try to escape from his usual territory. Some dogs can begin to scratch or chew at themselves, losing patches of fur. They may lose their appetite, leaving food and water untouched all day.
School is a necessary evil, but you can help your dog with a slow transition from a house full of people and activity to a long school day alone. Before the end of the summer, be sure to leave your dog alone for first short then longer periods of time.
Ask a friend or neighbor to look in on your dog once or twice during the day. Visits of even a few minutes can help relieve loneliness and remind your dog that he's not on his own.
Be sure he has plenty of ways to occupy himself when he's gone. Interactive toys will help to keep him occupied; interactive treat dispensers or rawhides can also help fill the time.
And make sure there's also plenty of one-on-one time with his human family without the distractions of the television or homework. Regular playtime will give him something to look forward to, and a well-exercised, tired dog will be much more content than one also trying to deal with pent-up energy.
Also remember not to scold your dog for anything that he did while you were gone. He won't associate the yelling with the shoes that he chewed up hours ago; instead, the person he has waited so long to see and greeted so happily will now be mad at him. So instead of yelling or scolding, remember that he's lonely, he's happy to see you now, and needs to be helped through this stressful time of re-adjustment.