As summer winds down, it’s time for two-legged and four-legged family members alike to prepare to go back to school. And the start of the school year can be just as hard on your dog as it is on your kids. After three months of having kids around the house, lots of activities, and plenty of outdoors time, dogs can struggle with readjusting to long stretches of being home alone.
“Dogs, like children, need structure and when that structure is disrupted, even in a positive way like having more family around more often, it is hard on the dog to adjust when the schedule changes again,” said Angie Falcsik, owner of Pawsitive K-9 Obedience. “We tend to do the obvious and spend more time loving and playing with our dog during the summer months when family is home more and forget that we need to continue with the structure and routine as well.” It takes a while for your dog to adjust to the big changes in routine—and then school starts up again, and his routine changes again.
You can make the transition from summer to fall easier on your dog with a few simple strategies shared by Falcsik.
Do your homework
If possible, Falcisk recommends that families continue their day-to-day routine over the summer. Try to stick to walking and feeding schedules to provide your dog some structure. If you haven’t held up the routine for the past couple months, don’t worry! Start adhering to it now in the weeks leading up to school. “A few weeks before school starts, get back into the regular school-year schedule,” she said. “Although the kids may be home, remind them that playing with Fido all day will make him miss them even more when they go back to school. Start to schedule the play times so that they are more in line with school hours.”
Prepare your pup for the coming mornings when the family dashes out the door. “Schedule short periods of times when the entire family is going to be gone to see how Fido handles things. Start with everyone going for a walk for 10 minutes and build up to everyone being gone for an hour,” said Falcisk. If your dog struggles with separation anxiety—or to prevent it from occurring—keep arrivals and departures low-key.
Just before or right as school starts up, find a class for you, your kids, and your dog. Falcisk said that classes like agility and nosework will provide your dog with an outlet for his energy while continuing to build your bond.
According to Falcisk, you can make the difficult school-year transition easier on your pup. The bottom line? Start thinking about your dog’s needs before school begins. Once the semester starts, your pup will be ready to ace his new schedule!