Back to school! Hooray! Then again, maybe not so “hooray” for the family dog who also has to make some unwelcome changes to his lifestyle. All summer long Fido and his family’s kids have probably strengthened that special bond even more, as days full of activities had them all sleeping well at night. But now…he’s left with a pretty quiet, empty house. Changes like the kids heading back to school can cause separation anxiety in some dogs. Some even turn to escaping the house to follow them to school.
Destructive behaviors can surface for a stressed, bored, confused dog who lost his daily playmates of the last few months. Some signs of separation anxiety include undesirable traits like:
- Shredding paper
- Chewing furniture
- Tearing the stuffing out of pillows
- Going to the bathroom in the house
- Obsessive barking/whining for long periods of time
NEVER punish your dog for exhibiting these separation anxiety behaviors. That may make him feel even more fearful and potentially aggressive. Separation anxiety is a serious condition but one that can be managed with patience, time, consistency and love.
What to do? Start with leaving your dog at home for very short periods of time to get him used to being alone. Don’t give in to the need to show big emotional displays when you come and leave the home. Prepare the night before so you aren’t stressed out rushing about looking for your belongings and adding to the tension of leaving the house. Remind the children not to overstimulate Fido with their leaving for and returning from school each day. Invest in some durable interactive toys for your dog to stave off the onset of boredom. Leave the TV or radio playing so the background noise is more familiar from those summer months. Be sure to exercise the dog with a good morning run or walk, maybe chase a few tennis balls in the yard…something to burn off some energy so he is set for the da y as he waits for your return. If your budget allows and schedule demands it, consider investing in doggie daycare. It’s a win-win for the whole family!
One final thought: Please check with your veterinarian and have your dog fully evaluated and properly diagnosed if these symptoms/behaviors arise before trying to manage them on your own. Never take a chance and mistake an underlying medical issue with a behavioral problem.