It’s that time of year most kids dread − Back to School. The end of summer means less time to play outside with friends, and more time devoted to classes and homework. That’s enough to put most kids in a bit a funk, but did you know the family dog might also share their pain?

That’s right, dogs can suffer from the Back to School blues, too. Check out these tips to help your dog manage the transition from summer vacation to a new school year. By following this prescribed “homework,” you can help banish these blues soon and restore your dog to a happy state.

Dogs are sensitive to changes in their daily routine. Back to school represents a particular challenge. Days once filled with outdoor play, activities and attention are now mostly solitary and a lot less exciting.  To ease the transition, experts suggest slowly adjusting the dog’s schedule to the new routine.

This gradual transition can help avoid the dreaded curse of back to school season: separation anxiety. These feelings often cause dogs to act out in destructive ways, including excessive barking and chewing or eating things they shouldn’t. To help avoid or manage this behavior challenge, we present the the following plan.

Before School Starts

  • Shift playtime and walks to morning and evening hours, and away from school hours. Afterwards, give your dog a big meal and encourage her to rest. This pattern will mimic her new school day routine.
  • If your dog is used to having company all day, you’ll need to get her to used to being alone. Start by leaving her alone in the house for brief periods of time. When you or other family members leave and return, keep calm and quiet. Encouraging excited behavior (or even loudly scolding such behavior) only serves to increase the dog’s energy and in turn exacerbate the problem. Instead, wait until the dog calms down first before acknowledging her.
  • If your dog has exhibited separation anxiety and destructive behavior in previous “back to school” seasons, look into doggie daycares in your area. Most doggie daycares will allow you to schedule a “trial run” for an hour or a half day to see how your pup adjusts to the environment. If she enjoys it, doggie daycare could be a great option for your dog once summer ends. Even 1-2 days a week can provide her with some much needed exercise, stimulation and socialization.

After School Starts

  • Put your new routine into practice, and give your dog plenty of exercise in the morning − for example, a long walk/jog or a vigorous game of fetch. (And remember, a DogWatch Hidden Fence is a safe way to help your dog get more off-leash exercise in your yard!) Afterwards, follow up this exercise with a large meal. A tired dog is less likely to act out, and more likely to rest peacefully until you return home.
  • Provide your dog with engaging toys to play with while you’re gone. Think about hiding biscuits or peanut butter in a KONG rubber toy, which will provide distraction and entertainment for the dog, in addition to a yummy treat. Puzzle toys are also a great option for mental and physical stimulation.
  • Work hard to maintain that calm demeanor around the dog when leaving and coming home. Avoid extended goodbyes and hellos, especially if the dog is excited. Although it may be difficult to resist her adorable smiles and kisses, remember you have all evening and next morning to enjoy some cuddling, playing and petting.
  • Hiring a dog walker can also be a big help, especially for families with busy schedules. If your dog will be home for most of the day, a midday exercise break may be just the thing she needs to prevent her from engaging in destructive behavior. Plus, it will help avoid any “accidents” on those days when you are coming home late.

In conclusion, as professional dog trainer John Spieser says: “Dogs are creatures of habit and don’t take interruptions lightly. The favor we can do for them is to smooth out the speed bumps and do what it takes to turn a potentially confusing situation into a seamless evolution.” We hope our “homework” will help you do just that. And to all the students out there, good luck this year!