How to Help Your Pets’ Anxiety When Your Kids Go Back to School!
8 September, 2015
After the fun and play time of summer vacation is over and your kids go back to school, it can be a relief for some parents. You finally have some down time and the house is quiet! However, your dogs (and some cats) might not feel the same way. After all, the household goes from a lively, playful place to a very quiet home with much less action and activity. And, for some dogs, it can be distressing for them and they can either become destructive or just very lonely.
Below are some tips to help your dogs’ transition to your kids’ sudden departure:
Make sure to get a long walk in the morning
Make sure to take your dog out for a long morning walk. Exercising and/or walking your dog is a great way to treat many behavioral problems, especially those involving any form of anxiety. Exercise can also enrich your dog’s life, decrease stress and provide the right outlets for normal behavior. Plus, a tired dog doesn’t have much excess energy to burn when he’s left alone! He’ll start the day all tired and you will already be away when he wakes up.
If you can also schedule time to take extra walks or even just some fetching games during the day or when you get home, it will also help the transition to keep your dog tired and hopefully quiet all day long.
Make sure that breakfast is the biggest meal
Make sure to give your pup(s) a big breakfast. Between the walk and the meal, your dogs will most likely nap after they eat and the goal is that your dog will snooze away much of his time alone (we know how eating makes our pups sleepy!). Or at least, when you leave the house, your pup will be resting and it won’t be as traumatic from them.
Provide a special chew toy for when you leave each day
Make sure to give your dog a great chew toy that is only used or given to your dog when you are away to keep your dog focused on something other than your departure. And, make sure that the chew toy is safe to leave with your dog that is alone all day. You can stuff a Kong toy with a something he or she likes to nibble on and let him go at it. If you keep your dog busy, it can help relieve him of some of that excess energy and help him over the worst part of his separation. If your dog associates being alone with something good, like a tasty treat or toy, it can reduce or resolve the problem.
When you are home, try to help your dog become independent
If you can resist, don’t let your dog follow you around the house (at least not daily). If you can create a sense of independence in your dogs, it will help when you leave the house. Of course, we love our dogs and want them to be around us, it just doesn’t need to be all the time. Try having your dog lie down on one side of the room while you are on another side, watching television or on your phone. Keep him in the ‘down or stay’ position and after some time, make sure to then go over and praise your dog for staying. And, then you can play and hug him!
When you leave every morning, make it very non-eventful
Many dogs know when you’re about to leave the house and will get anxious or try to stop your departure altogether. One way to tackle this problem is to teach your dog that when you pick up your keys or put on your coat, it doesn’t always mean you’re leaving. For example, put on your coat and then just sit down and watch TV instead of leaving. And, then, when you do leave, it isn’t as dramatic.
All of your hellos and goodbyes should be in a very calm manner. When saying goodbye, just give your dog a pat on the head, say goodbye and leave. Similarly, when arriving home, say hello to your dog and then don’t pay any more attention to him until he’s calm and relaxed.
Don’t ever punish your dog for being anxious or destructive
Anxious behaviors are not the result of disobedience, so don’t scold or punish your dog (ever) if he doesn’t overcome his fear quickly. If you punish or even scold your dog, your pup may become even more upset and the problem could get worse. Be patient, and work with your dog until he feels comfortable and enjoys spending time alone again. Even if your dog gets to your favorite shoes or furniture, he is only acting out because you have not provided him the tools to calm your pup down and he is just frustrated!