It’s back-to-school time, and for families with kids at home that probably means shopping for supplies, organizing schedules, and getting back in a regular routine. It can be a stressful time for humans, and your dogs can be affected as well.
Many of us at the Good Dog Hotel & Spa are dealing with it too, including team members and customers alike. We know and see how this time of transition can impact your dog – he may feel neglected, confused and even show signs of depression. Here are behaviors to look for, and things you can do to help your pooch through this difficult time.
Signs of Depression & Anxiety
Dogs can suffer from depression and anxiety, just like humans. This can often happen when your students go off to school, and suddenly his or her playmates are gone. Keep an eye out for these signs.
• Cowering or hiding
• Low energy
• Loss of appetite
• Lack of interest in playing
• Destructive chewing
• Extreme barking and whining
• Going to the bathroom in the house
• Frenzied clawing to get out through windows, doors, or fences
If your dog is suffering from depression, for example, he might be lethargic and stay in his bed when a family member gets home. If he’s suffering from separation anxiety, on the other hand, he’ll be frenzied and hyper in the same situation.
How to Help Your Dog
There are simple things you can do to help your dog and prevent or provide relief from depression and anxiety. However, keep in mind that if the back-to-school experience is new to your pooch, it might take a little more time. It all comes down to establishing a routine and making sure plenty of exercise and attention is involved.
Morning activity: Exercising your dog early in the day will be key. Include family members in creating a schedule, and take turns spending an extra 15 minutes every morning taking her for a walk or playing in the yard before leaving for school or work. This helps her feel loved and burns energy, which reduces the chance for destruction in your absence.
Departure time: When it’s time for your student (or anyone else in the household) to leave, don’t make it a big production. Pet your dog just as you normally would, but refrain from showing emotion, as he can sense it if you are distraught or upset. Use a new toy or special treat as a distraction, and consider leaving a radio or television on as a soothing mechanism during your absence.
Afternoon break: Plan on having a family member go home around midday if possible, so your dog can get out for some quick exercise. This helps break up her alone time, and allows her to run or play off some energy. If your schedule doesn’t allow for an afternoon break, consider soliciting help from a neighbor or hiring a dog walker. Another good solution is to take her to a dog daycare two or three times a week.
End of school/work day: When you or your student gets back home for the day, refrain from making it a big production. Why? Because if you do, dogs with anxiety will conclude that you’ve been gone forever. The better approach is to ignore him when you first get home, then after a few minutes, greet your dog in a calm manner and take him outside for a bathroom break, if needed.
Evening activity: No matter your daytime responsibilities, evenings are usually hectic during the school year. Because the focus turns to dinner, homework and after school activities, it’s easy to put your dog on the back burner. Remember that she has been waiting all day for your attention, and is sure to have built up some energy that needs to be burned. Take her out for play and exercise every evening after dinner or at a time that suits your family.
Getting back into the swing of school is an adjustment for everyone, including your pooch. If you notice any signs of depression or anxiety that don’t improve over time – or even worsen – contact your veterinarian.