Back to School K-9 Blues

It’s September. That means one universal truth for most children of the world: it’s back to school time. If your great dane is acting like he ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog lately, then it may be that he has the back to school blues. Yes, even your pet can get down when his favorite playmates have gone from full to part time. This can mean his life has gone from fun and fantasy to loneliness and boredom. He may be left feeling neglected and depressed. Alternatively, if he is spending long days in the crate, he may overwhelm you with all the stored up energy that is waiting to be unleashed once his family arrives.

Is your dog displaying symptoms of depression such as lack of energy, loss of appetite, hiding or cowering, and not wanting to play? Separation anxiety is another possibility. Unlike depression, separation anxiety manifests itself in erratic behavior, including excessive barking and whining, frantic clawing at doors, windows, or fences to get out, destructive chewing, and going to the bathroom in the house. Dogs with separation anxiety will be ecstatic when family members get home, whereas a depressed dog may not even get up from his bed. If your dog displays any of these symptoms, he may be upset by the recent change in schedules.

It is important to not disregard your dog’s feelings. Instead take a look at these tips to help your dog cope with the difficulty associated with this time of transition.

SCHEDULING TECHNIQUES AND TWEAKS

Remember that it is going to take some time. If your dog has gone through this routine in past years, he may remember the routine and settle in more quickly but if this is his first time, be sure to be patient as he learns to adjust to the new way of life. Having a simple routine in place can help alleviate any stress your dog feels. Even if your dog does not suffer from depression or anxiety, he will still appreciate this simple routine, which will ensure he gets enough attention and exercise.

AM Exercise: Exercise is essential for having a healthy and happy dog. Create a schedule with your family that gets everyone involved. Each morning someone should get up a little bit early, even just fifteen minutes, to take the dog out for a walk around the block or even the back yard before the day starts. Not only will this let your dog know you still care, but getting out that extra energy means he is less likely to be destructive while you are gone.

Upon Leaving: When it is time to leave for the day, don’t make a big deal of it. It is ok to pet your dog, but don’t get emotional. Dogs can sense your emotions. If you are upset, he will be more likely to be upset. Distract him with a toy or a treat-stuffed toy. For anxious dogs, leaving a radio or TV on can help.

Afternoon Break: Try to schedule someone in your family to go home around midday and let your dog out for some quick exercise. Not only does it break up the length of time he is left alone, but it will also relieve some energy. If no one in the family is available, consider asking a neighbor or hiring a dog walker. Taking her to a doggy daycare a couple of times a week is a good alternative.

Upon Arrival: When you return home for the day don’t make a big deal of it. If your dog has anxiety, making a grande entrance will only feed his anxious emotions. The best thing to do is ignore him when you first get home, then after a few minutes, calmly greet your dog and take him out to go to the bathroom if needed.

PM Exercise: When you finally arrive home, it is easy to put off the dog. You have had a long day, you had to cook dinner, help the kids with homework, and now all you want to do is sit on the couch. But your dog has been waiting for you all day and most likely has unspent energy. After his dinner, be sure to take him out for some exercise and play time.

Following this routine will help your dog have some things to look forward to each day and help him not to dwell on your absence. Continue to monitor him, and if his symptoms worsen or do not improve, take him to a veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions that might be causing the symptoms.

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