Preparing Your Dog for the School Year | Pupford
December 27th, 2023
Filed under Pet Parenting
Back to school time is a major transition for the whole family. Adjusting bedtimes, establishing new routines -- it all takes time to get used to.
It’s also an adjustment for your dog, believe it or not. Think about it, they’ve enjoyed all summer with their humans being around more. Depending on their parents’ professions and kids’ ages, some dogs are lucky enough to have the whole family home all summer!
The sudden switch from days filled with activities and playing to time alone can be hard for your dog. A lot of people have been asking us for advice on how to make the transition smoother, so we prepared this guide for preparing your dog for the school year. Things we’ll cover:
- Curbing boredom
- Adjusting your pet’s routine
- Adjusting your routine
- Making the most of your time together
- Daycare and dog walkers
- Dealing with separation anxiety
...everything you need to ensure a smooth transition for your dog this school year. As for your kids? That’s a post for a different website.
LISTEN TO PODCAST: PREPARING DOGS FOR SCHEDULE CHANGES
PREPARING YOUR DOG FOR THE SCHOOL YEAR
CURBING BOREDOM DURING ALONE TIME
When your dog spends more time alone, they’re susceptible to the dreaded “B” word: boredom. As many dog parents are all too aware, boredom is the leading cause of many destructive behaviors like chewing, digging, scratching, etc.
It’s important to get ahead of boredom to set your dog up for success. Remember, even if you are working from home or your kids are attending virtual classes, your focus is elsewhere so you can’t engage with your dog.
You can prepare ahead of time with activities that will keep your dog active and engaged when they have to spend time on their own. Some boredom-fighting ideas:
- Freeze Kongs and lick mats with some peanut butter, pumpkin, or plain yogurt to keep your dog stimulated
- Stock up on enrichment toys like puzzle toys and snuffle mats that keep your dog’s nose and brain working hard
- Make your own DIY enrichment activities that your dog can work on. Check out some mental stimulation and exercise ideas here.
These items will not only help avoid destructive behaviors, but they will also help build your dog’s confidence and contentment with being left alone or without attention.
ADJUSTING YOUR PET’S ROUTINE FOR THE SCHOOL YEAR (OR SCHEDULE CHANGES)
There are likely going to be significant changes to your dog’s routine once the school year starts. Maybe there won’t be any more midday walks, or maybe the whole family won’t be home together until the evening.
You may also want to consider having someone stop by in the middle of the day to check on your dog if you will be gone for large amounts of time. Look into asking for help from a friend or family member, or a dog walking site like Rover (more on that topic later).
Whatever changes will be taking place, introduce them ahead of time. Gradually adjust sleep schedule, exercise time, and crate time so your dog is already in their new routine. Large, sudden changes may cause your dog stress, so easing into it is the key to success.
You can also use this time to see if different factors like background noise/music or essential oil diffuser (make sure that the oils are safe for dogs) will make a positive difference in your dog’s mood and behavior.
Related Reading: How Long Can You Leave a Dog Alone?
ADJUSTING YOUR ROUTINE FOR THE SCHOOL YEAR
But isn’t this supposed to be about your dog? Well yes, but your dog’s health and happiness depends so much on you as their parent!
You may already be adjusting your schedule as you transition from summer to school year, but don’t forget to factor your dog into that new routine.
Make sure you are leaving enough time in the morning for a walk or some exercise to help get your dog’s energy out and spend some time together. Also factor in their potty and meal time needs to your day; for example, are there certain days where your kids have after school activities? If so, be sure to make arrangements to meet your dog’s needs.
Be sure to also adjust your routine to allow for training sessions and bonding time with your dog. Setting your alarm a little earlier is worth it when it results in a happy, healthy dog!
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME TOGETHER
If you’re going to be spending less time with your dog together as a family, be sure to make the most of the time you do spend together.
This could be in the form of taking your dog out for a walk or jog to get proper exercise and stimulation, or adding additional activities into your dog’s day to get them excited and make them feel loved.
Introducing enrichment activities is a great way to maximize your time with your dog. We love enrichment activities for building confidence, avoiding problem behaviors, and keeping your dog engaged and happy.
We put together a course of 20 enrichment activities with step by step videos and resources.
DAYCARE AND DOG WALKERS
If the school year means your dog will be spending a lot of time alone, you might want to consider a daycare or dog walker. They can ensure your dog stays on a feeding/potty/activity schedule, while helping with the guilt many dog parents feel about leaving their pups alone.
There are a lot of resources out there for finding certified, insured, and affordable doggy day cares and dog walkers. You can also have a trusted friend or family member take on the role of your dog walker -- it could be a great way for other members of your family to bond with your dog.
DEALING WITH SEPARATION ANXIETY
Sometimes being left alone causes significant issues for dogs, including separation anxiety. This is especially a problem for dogs who joined families during the COVID-19 pandemic and were accustomed to someone always being home. But it can also be triggered by any major change in schedule or environment.
Separation anxiety can be really tough on your dog (and your house, if it leads to problem behaviors). Here are some signs that your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety when left alone:
- Pacing or shaking
- Whining, barking, or howling
- Destructive behaviors and accidents
- Attempting to escape or run out
If you think your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, don’t worry. There are steps you can take to alleviate it and keep your dog calm when home alone. In fact, we have a whole guide dedicated to separation anxiety in dogs.
What else are you doing to get your dog ready for back to school? We’d love to hear it in the comments below.