Need to help your dog beat the back-to-school blues? As kids go back to school and college, and we head back to work more and vacationing less, here are some tips to help your pooch get over the August blues.
Looking back over the past three months, it feels like summer just flew by – Memorial Day. Blink. Labor Day. Blink. In North Carolina, we’re back in school and in the full swing of all things learning by early August. Gone are the lazy, carefree days of summer.
While I love back-to-school season, it’s a bittersweet time for those of us with pups and kids. The start of a new school year signals another passing season and another step closer to high school graduation and from there, adulthood.
Symptoms of Back to School blues IN DOGS
Over the summer, I got a glimpse of what doggy depression looks like when Matthew left for an 8-day beach trip with his best friends. By day three, Porter was sleeping the day away and sulking through the house by night.
By day five, Porter would sit beside me and stare up into my eyes as if to ask where Matthew went. I admit – neither one of us was really comfortable with the boy’s absence. I realized though, if a summer beach trip was any indication of what back-to-school was going to do to us, I had to get creative or both Porter and I were going to be a mess this year.
Here is how to tell if your dog might be depressed:
- Listless and/or lacks energy
- Loss of appetite
- Is unresponsive, doesn’t want play or engage
Read the 4 Warning Signs Your Dog Is Depressed here for more about doggy depression.
7 TIPS TO HELP YOUR DOG BEAT THE BACK TO SCHOOL blues
If your dog is experiencing similar feelings now that the kids are back in school, there are some tips to help beat the back-to-school blues below you can try to help make the transition smoother.
1. Keep the departures sweet and simple. I drive Matthew to school every day since our charter school is located about six miles from our house and there is no bus service. We tend to shower Porter with good-boy pats on the head, kisses and sweet promises that I’ll “be back soon” when we leave in the mornings, unless I’m not coming right back. If that’s the case, we just “sneak” out the door with little fanfare. Whether you all head out as a family for drop-off, or just see the kids out the door, keep the dog kisses and puppy hugs to a minimum and hit the road.
2. Walk the dog. If the kids have enough time before they leave for school, they can walk the dog and if there’s no time, save the walk for you the the dog for when the kids are off to school. Win-win: exercise for you, exercise for the dog.
3. Indulge in a special treat. Consider this special bonding time between you and the dog by giving the pup a special treat or chew toy that is only provided when the kids are at school. With any luck, your dog may start to look forward to the kid-free time.
4. Play and interact with the dog. Encourage the kids to engage with the dog long before they leave in the morning and again when they return home. The before-school bonding time is a good way to connect before everyone heads in different directions for a busy day, and the downtime in the afternoon is a good break that allows everyone to regroup.
5. Play music, start an audiobook or turn on the TV. When you’re in a mad rush to turn everything off and head out the door, consider playing the radio, leaving an audio book going or turning on the TV for your dog. In our house, we leave the TV on to a game show (Family Feud) or morning talk (Live with Kelly and Ryan). If it’s later in the day (afternoon pick-up, for example), I just turn the radio on to 80’s rock. The sound of a human speaking/singing can help reduce the dog’s stress while you’re gone and fill the void your absence leaves behind.
6. Doggy daycare or spa day. Treat Fido to a day spa or doggy daycare trip. We have an abundance of choices in our town – from Camp Bow Wow to Pet Paradise, many of which offer grooming, spa and daily daycare services. Many of these places include pool, treats and doggy play time. So whether you work at home or commute to a job, consider dropping your dog off one or two days a week at a daycare.
7. Get another dog or pet. This may not be a viable – or even a desirable – option for everyone. Consider getting a second dog – they would keep each other company and have fun together. However, there are a number of factors to consider before bringing home a new furry family member. The Nebraska Humane Society’s Training and Behavior Department published this helpful info sheet – Introducing New Dogs to Resident Dogs – about introducing a new dog to your home that already has a dog.
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What suggestions do you have for beating the back to school blues and reducing separation anxiety? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.