Help the family dog adjust to back-to-school season

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Back-to-school is an eventful time for a family. With shopping, excitement, last-minute trips and, of course, the upcoming changes in schedule, the family dog is often left out of the picture.

Just when your dog was enjoying having the kids at home more often, the daily routine gets flip-flopped. For animals, creatures of habit and routine, this can be upsetting. Dogs don't really get it nor do they remember the same thing happened last year.

For newly acquired puppies, it is even more confusing when their playmates disappear each day.

Many puppy and dog owners can expect a period of acting out. This might include wanting more attention and just being annoying in general. Dogs might start getting into things that they shouldn't - as in "My dog ate my homework."

Paper, pillows, shoes, children's toys and more might get chewed up or disappear. It is their way of showing us they are stressed with the changes.

Family members should tire the dog out each morning before they go off to work or kids off to school. Get up even earlier and take the dog for a long walk then play with her before you leave. At least he will be tired when you leave and then be less destructive.

If you expect major damage, then I recommend crating the dog when you leave. If they get better over time you can begin to leave them out.

Puppies still need to be confined when owners are away, to a crate or baby-gated area or playpen. With both puppies and adult dogs, make sure to leave something engaging to chew on so they don't even think about the family being gone.

When the family gets home, ask them to be low-key around the dog. Too much excitement increases his feelings of loss when you are gone.

Put your stuff down before you say hello, and when you greet her, do it calmly outside, so that there is no excitement inside. Take her out or on a walk, and then play with her to release some pent up energy.

Go back to your daily training routine, which gives him one-on-one attention and reinforces your role. Try to resume the same evening routine you would have at any other time. Evenings can provide continuity when you are home.

If you have family sports or other events in the evening, find out if your well-behaved dog or pup can attend with you. Trying to be inclusive when the new school year begins can really help.

As your dog adjusts to the new routine, just remember not to exclude her from your busy lives. Find ways to include her in family activities. Walks, ball games, beach trips and yard play will make the time away from you easier for your dog.

Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Obedience Training. ajbird@hargray.com

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