Just as we prepared our dogs for when we returned to our places of work after being in lockdown for over a year, a similar situation is approaching as kids and other family members return to school this fall. If you have school-aged children, this most likely means your summer was filled with a lot of activities that also involved your furry family member. September is near, and before you know it, the kids will be back in school all day. This sudden change in schedule can cause separation anxiety for your dog who is used to having a full house of playmates all day long. For this reason, it is important to know the signs to look for that indicate anxiety in dogs and, also, to know how to best prepare your dog for this change in their daily schedule. Continue reading to learn about both indicators of and ways to prevent this separation anxiety.
There are varying degrees of anxiety when it comes to dogs, just the same as people, and it is not uncommon. An abrupt change in schedule in terms of when and for how long a dog is left alone can be a trigger for the development of separation anxiety. Dogs rely on consistency so any time there is a sudden change, this can cause stress. A few examples of the behaviors that can indicate separation anxiety in a dog are:
- Urinating and defecating
- Excessive barking and howling when left alone
- Chewing, digging, and destruction
- Pacing, whining, or trembling
- Coprophagia (consumption of stool)
Visit aspca.org to learn more about the details of each indicating behavior.
Now, here are some helpful tips that you could try to help your dog cope with being home alone:
Play when you can – When you and your family members are home, be sure to give your dog ample attention with play time, long walks, playing fetch, taking your dog swimming, or any other bonding activity that your dog enjoys when it fits into your schedule.
Let your dog be a dog – Dogs are known for being quite the social animal and generally, are bred to perform jobs such as hunting, retrieving, or herding. Therefore, your furry friend will be most content when they get to do these things. When you have the time, consider taking your dog to the dog park where they can be social with other dogs. Play fetch with your retriever and take long hikes with your herder so your dog feels stimulated and purposeful for part of the day which will make the lazier hours of the day easier for them when you’re gone.
Leave toys and games – Whether your dog enjoys puzzle balls, chew toys, or just having the television on, leave these items out or on for them to keep busy with (or even hide the toys if they like scavenger hunts) so that they have something fun and entertaining to do while you’re away from home. This is key for dogs that are big chewers; leave them with something to chew so they don’t resort to the living room couch!
Consider hiring a dog walker – If both you and the kids are gone for most of the day, it may be a good idea to hire someone to come and check on your dog. Dogs can’t last the whole day without a bathroom break and most need long mid-day walks so they are more well behaved. Dog walkers and sitters can provide your dog with the exercise, stimulation, and social time that they both need and crave.
Keep in mind that times of transition are hard on dogs, just as they are for your kids! However, it won’t be long before they all adjust and get used to the new routine, so be patient and flexible. If you ever feel like there could be more to your dog’s unusual behavior, don’t hesitate to reach out to your vet to have him or her checked.