If summer winding down means back to school time for your family, it likely also means a change in your dog's routine. No more kids to chase. No balls to fetch. The pool is closed. Your dog becomes lonely and bored.
Dogs are creatures of habit, and a disruption can be upsetting. The resultant anxiety can cause changes in behavior. Barking, whining, destructive chewing, eliminating in the house can all be anxiety driven. Dogs are also thought to be able to suffer from depression, which can manifest into lack of energy or appetite.
What to do?
As many of us know personally, exercise is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety, and it's no different for dogs. So add a morning walk or Frisbee toss, or maybe hire a dog walker to break up the day.
And don't forget the mental stimulation. Clicker training your dog some new tricks or brushing up on her manners will keep her mind busy. Still feeding your dog out of a bowl? Ditch it and replace it with fun, challenging food puzzle toys.
Background noise helps mask outside sounds that may further increase a dog's anxiety. Leave the radio or TV on so your dog hears a human voice throughout the day. Through A Dog's Ear is music specifically designed for a dog's hearing, and has been clinically shown to calm dogs.
Last but not least, when you and the kids are home make sure you spend quality time with your dog and include him in family activities.
It's not too late, but don't wait.
Start now to work on creating that new back to school routine. Pack up the kids to run errands or for short trips so your dog gets used to alone time again. Make departures low key but pleasurable with a stuffed Kong or bully stick. Put that new exercise and training regimen in place.
What you invest today will show dividends in the future. Set your dog up for success and reduce everyone's stress.
Note: While a change in behavior can be the result of an altered routine, it can also mean an underlying medical issue. Please consult your veterinarian if symptoms persist.
Jeff Dentler, CPDT-KA, IAABC-ADT, FFCP, CTDI