When The Kids Go Back To School

Lonely Dog

Pets suffer from a kind of empty nest syndrome when their kids go back to school after a summer of extended playtime and a lot more attention than they get during the school year.  They need a little extra care at this time to help them adjust to the loss, and prevent the development of behavioral issues resulting from separation anxiety, fear, or depression.

Without a new distraction, dogs will often start acting out, doing things like chewing stuff you don’t want chewed, shredding and destroying things, barking continuously, or even whining and whimpering.  They may even revert back to pooping indoors.

Change The Schedule Gradually

As a family you have to set some guidelines, so that about a week or two before the kids go back to school, playtime with the dog has to take on a little more structure. Set a time for a walk and a time for play so that he gets used to getting less attention. Ideally you should set the times so that if there is a parent home, the schedule can continue when the kids are in school. Make sure that the kids are aware that their pet will be feeling lonely and bored without them so they understand that he will need daily attention from them before or after school. You should also leave him alone for a while each day. Try to keep the comings and goings free of drama and emotional goodbyes. Get your dog some new toys to entertain him while he’s alone. Food puzzles are a great way to keep them busy for a while.

Dogs rely on structure and routine to feel secure in their place in the family, so changes leave them feeling stressed. If your dog exhibits any of the negative behavior mentioned above, don’t punish him, that will only make his fear and anxiety worse. You have to reinforce his good behavior as if you are training him all over again.

Dangerous Depression

Spending some time making the transition less of a shock to your dogs will help them avoid slipping into depression. Depression in pets puts them at risk for arthritis, heart disease, and cancer because their immune system also becomes depressed.  Avoid changing anything else at this time, it will just be too much for most dogs to handle emotionally. Stress and depression may also bring on vomiting, diarrhea, skin problems, and eating odd things like dirt, toys, plants.

If your dog does seem depressed, try to get them out of their funk with more play and exercise, but beware of encouraging the moping. If you give him treats to try to get him back in his happy place, he may think he is being rewarded for the negative behavior. Try using a natural calming product like Bach’s Rescue Remedy for Pets which is their alcohol free version of their flower essences.

If you can’t get him out of his depression, see your vet because there are medications that will help. Dogs, in fact, take the same depression meds that humans do, like Prozac or Zoloft. The drugs take a couple of months to have an effect, and usually only need to be taken for 6 months to a year, unlike in humans where they are often on the medication for years.

Image donated in support of Indiana Animal Protection League
Featured images: License: Creative Commons image source

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