Routine Rx: Structure is the best medicine for back to school doggie blues
Now that school’s back in session, your dog may look and feel like he’s lost his only friend.
The kids, so keen to play a month ago, suddenly have a distant gaze in their eye--outside things like homework, after school sports, new friends and cafeteria politics now demanding their attention.
Maybe mom and dad seem different too. Wasn’t it only yesterday we were cooking out, doing tricks for the neighbors and giving me scraps from the grill?
In canines, the end-of-summer blues can set in quietly and become a real problem before you know it, but thankfully, a few precautions can lighten things up before any fine leather chairs or back to-school shoes get chewed.
The experts say both depression and separation anxiety are possibilities in insecure pets who are suddenly left alone and understimulated. If your four-legged companion is showing signs of depression, you’ve probably already felt it - even if you haven’t recognized it. No messes in the house or torn up sofas, perhaps, but when was the last time he ran to the door when you got home? If her food bowl level is unusually high and her profile unusually low, you might have a case of doggy depression. Think about trying one or two of our recommendations below.
Separation anxiety is a slightly more “in your face” malady. If depression is about energy loss, separation anxiety is about energy build-up. It’s tricky because you’ll usually still see normal signs of attachment and affection like a face full of kisses when you arrive home, but everything will be slightly more manic. Maybe he’s barking a lot, soiling inappropriately - and were those claw marks by the backdoor? Stopping this behavior requires more care than “sticking his nose in it,” so read on.
Whether it manifests as the doldrums or a case of delerium, your pet’s mood may be greatly affected by the recent changes in your shedule. Here’s a couple things you can do - not to “fix” her behavior so much as to change the whole dynamic of her day.
- Playdates and daycamps. Time outside, socialization, exercise, even syncronized obedience - what bout of depression stands a chance against these forces? Enrolling your dog in a daycamp this semester is definitely the fast track to a new routine for your pet. It’s also a big ticket fix, so make sure you find a camp backed by training certifications and transparency standards. On the other hand, if you’ve got the benefit of a tight-knit community of pet parents nearby, a rotating playdate with neighborhood friends can be a great, inexpensive way to perk things up for all paws involved.
- Two walks, a potty break and a pet palace. If you don’t have the luxury of extra funds or friends with ample free time, the key thing to remember is that routine is immensely reassuring for your dog. Here’s a sample plan for structuring your day:
- Dawn treader. Especially in cases of separation anxiety, a brisk morning walk can be just the thing to channel your dog’s energy in a positive direction.
- The man-cave principle. No one knows your dog like you. Take a moment to gather up your companion’s favorite things - and maybe a surprise or two - and make him or her a man cave or pet palace to turn to when times get tough.
- Perfect the exit. Remember: canines are keen on social stimuli. If you make your departure a big, mushy to-do in the morning, it’s going to be a big deal to your dog, too.
- Lunch break. If your dog doesn’t have access to a secure pet door for potty breaks, try to schedule a midday siesta for her. Whether it’s you or a trusted neighbor, this little touchpoint will earn you quick dividends in good behavior.
- Night on the town. Especially if you had to skip the walk that morning - an after-dinner walk around the neighborhood can be incredibly restorative for your pet. Invite the whole family along, and she’ll be over the moon.
Whether you replace the summer routine with a daily walk in the park, a bi-weekly playdate or a full, five-day doggy daycamp, remember that consistency cure this Fall. Implement one or two of these ideas over the next couple weeks and watch the colors change.
Shifting gears and changing seasons can get the best of us sometimes, but nothing’s unbearable when you’ve got something to look forward to.
Tags: Back to School, Dogs, End of Summer, Pets