Even though school openings might be delayed, it does look like it will eventually happen. Back to school is an eventful time for a family, with excitement, shopping, changes in schedule, and possibly even trips if a teen is now college bound.
With everything going on, the family dog is often overlooked. Just when your dog was enjoying having the family all home during the pandemic, the daily routine now gets changed again. Since dogs are 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. The dogs might start getting into things that they shouldn’t.
“My dog ate my homework” could be an actual occurrence. Paper, pillows, shoes, children’s toys and more might get chewed up or disappear.
There might also be a big change in potty habits. It is a dog’s way of showing you they are stressed with the changes.
Get the dog ready for these changes. Leave the house more often on a regular basis. Tire them out before you leave for the day. Have a specific routine for when the kids come home from school each day.
Get up even earlier and take your dogs for a long walk, then play with them before you leave. At least they will be tired when you leave and then be less destructive.
If your dog is destructive, then crate or baby gate them in a small room when you leave. With both puppies and adult dogs, make sure to leave something engaging to chew on so they don’t think about the family being gone.
When family gets home from the day ask them to be low-key around the dogs. Too much excitement increases their feelings of loss when you are gone.
Put your stuff down before you say hello to your dogs, and when you greet them, do it calmly outside so there is no excitement inside. Take them out or on a walk, then play with them to release some pent-up energy.
If necessary, go back to your daily training routine with them. That gives them one-on-one attention and reinforces your role. Try to resume the same evening routine you would have at any other time.
If you have family sports or other events in the evening, find out if your well-behaved dog can attend with you. Trying to be inclusive when the new school year begins can really help.
Just remember not to exclude your dogs from your busy lives, but find ways to include them in family activities. Walks, ball games, beach, yard play and more will make them feel the loss of time away from you less deeply.
Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy. AlphadogTrainingAcademy@gmail.com