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Prepare Your Pooch for "Back to School" Month
DogsBehavior

Prepare Your Pooch for "Back to School" Month

Critter Culture Staff
Updated Jun 13, 2022

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Dog owners may recognize that pets, like people, can experience separation issues. Canines are creatures of habit, and they feel safe when things are consistent and predictable. But they may have a hard time adjusting when their day-to-day routine suddenly changes — as it does during 'Back to School' month. This can result in destructive behaviors, like chewing, digging, excessive barking, or going to the bathroom indoors. Avoid the problem by preparing them for changes ahead of time.

1

Start practicing a few weeks beforehand

A young woman sitting indoors by the door on the floor at home, playing with a dog. Halfpoint / Getty Images

Giving your pet time to adjust makes a huge difference in how they handle changes in your schedule. Start at least a few weeks before school starts. Leave your pet alone for short periods and gradually build up to longer ones. They'll get used to you leaving, but they'll also learn that you come back. This helps them slowly adjust instead of forcing them to immediately deal with a full day away from their family.

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2

Implement new morning routines

Shot of family playing soccer together with their dog. kate_sept2004 / Getty Images

Once school starts, you'll be getting up earlier, rushing around, and heading out the door. This can heighten your pet's anxiety levels, so why not practice a slower, less hectic morning routine? Start with some outdoor time before what will be your scheduled time to leave the house each day. A run around the yard, a game of fetch, or a short walk will help your dog relax and feel less stressed when you leave each day.

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3

Stock up on toys

Smart dog is looking for delicious dried treats in intellectual game and eating them Lenti Hill / Getty Images

Keeping your furry pal entertained while you're away is crucial when you're discouraging the development of negative behaviors. Toys can stimulate your pet's brain, and that prevents boredom. Plus, a favorite toy provides comfort when they're feeling nervous. Treat-dispensing toys and puzzle toys can keep a dog busy for hours. Look for durable ones that are appropriate for your dog's size. Not all pups have the same personality, so it's important to figure out which toys appeal to your pooch before 'Back to School' month arrives.

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4

Leave some music playing

woman listening to music on her phone with her dog beside her monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images

While earlier studies showed that classical music and solo piano music soothed anxious canines, researchers in 2017 found that soft rock and reggae music led to more relaxed behaviors and lowered stress levels. You can find playlists for pets on popular music or video apps. It's best to start playing the music while you're at home before you make major changes to your schedule. That way, your pet doesn't associate the music with you leaving.

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5

Create a safe place in the home

Close-Up Of French Bulldog Resting On Pet Bed Anne Duden / EyeEm / Getty Images

Whether it's a fluffy, comfy bed or a crate, all dogs need a safe place in the home where they can take refuge while you're away. Dogs in the wild seek shelter and safety in a den; it's where they feel relaxed and safe. When their family isn't around, they need a special corner or small room to retreat to and feel secure. You may find that your pet heads to this spot at other times, too, such as when the household is more hectic than usual.

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6

Don't do emotional goodbyes

woman hugging her pet dog at home LiudmylaSupynska / Getty Images

Avoid making a big deal when saying goodbye when you leave. Research shows that dogs pick up on human emotions through their owner's facial expressions and the tone of their voice. And, if their human is feeling stressed about leaving their pet behind, they can detect those feelings through their keen sense of smell. If you make a big deal about your departure, your dog will likely pick up on those emotions, which leads to an increase in their stress levels.

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7

Desensitize your dog to repeated behaviors

Dog lying on carpet in living room while woman sitting and putting on shoes freemixer / Getty Images

Most dogs are adept at picking up cues. It doesn't take long for them to learn that if they hear the sound of jingling car keys, someone is leaving the house. They may pick up on other cues, such as you getting dressed for the day or putting your shoes on. Try practicing changes in what will be your normal daily routine without actually leaving the house before the day arrives when you do. This helps your dog become desensitized to the cues and eases them into the changes.

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8

Consider leaving the television on

two dogs watching tv damedeeso / Getty Images

Watching television is a part of the household culture for many families. And pet owners often say their dog watches TV alongside them. It becomes part of their routine and can be comforting while you're not at home, too. Pet behavior research shows that dogs particularly like watching other dogs, soothing sounds and images from nature, and, surprisingly, animated kid shows. It seems dog owners often speak to their pets using the same high-pitched, yet comforting tone of voice characters use in cartoons, and some dogs like it. You'll also find channels on YouTube or other TV networks tailored specifically for keeping your dog entertained while you're gone.

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9

Greet them calmly when you come home

Smiling girl with backpack sitting by Cocker Spaniel on porchSmiling girl with backpack sitting by Cocker Spaniel on porch Cavan Images / Getty Images

Let's face it. After a long day away from home, the excitement your dog shows when you return home is pretty rewarding. Instead of feeding into their anxiety when you return, however, give them time to calm down before you greet them. If you're showing a heightened level of excitement through your voice and body language, your dog will do the same. Once they're calm, praise them and reward them through your attention and physical touch.

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10

Set up after-school walks

Father and son walking with a dog in the park jacoblund / Getty Images

All the activity and schedule changes that go along with school being back in session after a few months off can be a strain on both humans and their dogs. Before heading back to school, start a new walk routine with your pet that occurs around the same time the household will be arriving home each day. Not only is a stroll with your pet relaxing for you both, but it also creates something for your pet to look forward to each day.

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