It’s that time of the year again. The new school year has the kids back in class and the house eerily quiet—summer is officially over. Now, the children aren’t the only ones who get back-to-school blues. The family pets, used to months of constant play with their best buddies, can get upset when all that quality time disappears with the dog days of summer.
Luckily there are tips and tricks to help when pets are down in the dumps over their summertime holiday ending. Knowing the signs to look out for and supporting their transition into quieter autumn days with these tips will get their tails wagging again.
Signs of Back to School Blues or Anxiety
Depression and anxiety appear as different behaviors in animals. Your pups may experience one or both of these conditions because of their newfound back-to-school alone time. While depression shows up as common behaviors associated with sadness, separation anxiety manifests itself in more erratic behaviors. Here are the most common signs of these temporary conditions:
- Listlessness and lack of energy
- Loss of appetite or fussiness with food
- Hiding or cowering
- Not wanting to play
- Excessive barking
- Whining or crying
- Frantic clawing at doors, windows, or fences to get out.
- Destroying something— such as damaging curtains, scratching sofas, or ruining a pair of favorite shoes
- Some may have accidents inside
Five Tips to Help Dogs With Back-to-School Blues
Make Your Departure a Happy Time But Avoid Overstimulation
Keep your morning departures upbeat and happy, but avoid overstimulation or excitement (which can make them more anxious). Giving the pets some healthy dog treats, distracting them with some toys, and providing a couple minutes of calming love and affection, will all help dogs feel less abandoned or sad. Leaving a TV or radio on low can also help them during the day.
Create a Place in the House Where the Dog Feels Safe
Just as you have your special reading chair, knitting corner, or “man-cave,” pets need a special place to call their own as well. This is especially important to combat separation anxiety. Create a special space for each of them with their lounge bed, favorite toys, a couple of pet treats, and perhaps an item or two of yours. This will be their safe place they can go to whenever they feel lonely or anxious.
Consider Doggie Daycare or a Dog Walker a Few Times a Week
With the kids in school and everyone at work, long stretches of alone time can be difficult. Utilizing your local doggy daycare or dog walkers a few times a week will not only give your pups exercise, but it will also provide them positive socialization with other doggies. This time out of the house will help break up the day so it won’t seem as long for your pets.
Create a Morning and Evening Exercise Routine and Stick With It
Even if it is just a short walk or trip to the park, make it a habit to have some quality exercise time with your pups both before school and after dinner. After a bit, your dogs will know quality time is coming when you get home. Having this to look forward to will reduce their anxiety when you are leaving and during the day.
Remove Separation Triggers From Objects
Just like their human parents, dogs also have emotional triggers and they often associate backpacks and briefcases with being left alone for the day. You may see them get excited or loud just by seeing your kids backpack even before school starts. To help desensitize the trigger, walk around the house with a backpack or briefcase several times a day.