iStock_000009598657_LargeIt’s likely that your family, both two-legged and four, have been having great fun this summertime: going on picnics, swimming at the lake, playing at the park…

Then, one morning, you and your family get up a little earlier, run around like crazy people, make a lot of noise, grab your paper bag lunches, and leave. And there sits Fido, all alone, waiting and wondering where his family has gone. In all likelihood, he or she will start to sing the Back-to-School Blues.

Separation Anxiety 101

By nature, dogs are pack animals and for the modern dog, his or her human family is the pack. For many dogs being separated from the pack creates fear and worry, which in turn often causes a negative psychological state called separation anxiety.

In dogs, separation anxiety may cause uncharacteristic “bad dog” behaviors, such as:

  • Going to the bathroom in the house
  • Chewing furniture or shoes
  • Scratching doors and windows
  • Becoming frantic as you are leaving or arriving

Likewise, your dog may show signs of depression, including:

  • Listlessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of interest in playing or going out
  • Increased sleeping

Both types of behaviors are related to suddenly and (as far as your dog is concerned) inexplicably being separated from his or her pack.

Avoiding Back-to-School Doggie Blues

Rational explanations about educational and financial responsibilities are unlikely to help your dog understand why you are leaving. However, there are a few tricks and tips you can consider to help ease your pup’s pain.

  • Morning Exercise. A tired dog is a relaxed dog. In addition to the physical benefits of exercise, one-on-one face time with a beloved family member is reassuring for pets; an early-morning exercise routine establishes a pattern of fun and excitement, followed by calmness.
  • Gimme a Break. If at all possible, have someone come home at noon or early in the afternoon to give your dog a bathroom break and a little exercise. This reassures your pet that you actually will come back, bringing some bathroom relief with you.
  • We’re Back. When you do return home, don’t fuss. Over-greeting your dog will tell him or her that you were also anxious about the separation, too, reinforcing (instead of alleviating), his or her anxiety.
  • Oh Boy! Evening exercise and some play time before supper is crucial for the physical and emotional health of your dog.

The scheduling is important: first exercise and play, then eat supper, then wind down and sleep. This mimics conditions in the wild where a day’s hunting and roaming is followed by eating the kill and sleeping off the day and the dinner with the rest of the pack.

We Can Help

If these tips don’t help your dog through the back-to-school blues, call us. We offer expert advice, professional dog training, pheromone sprays to help your dog relax and adapt to the new schedule, and even doggie play care facilities (where homework is never on the menu)!