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Friday, August 2, 2013

Preparing Your Dog for The Start of School

School time is just around the corner and the kids have been playing with our family dog all summer long.  What happens when our dog is left alone all day?

 
This same scenario happens every year and is something that is easily solved if you prepare for it now.  Two big problems that your dog could experience are boredom and separation anxiety.  Both of these could lead to inappropriate behavior such as destruction and continued, crazy barking.  Here are some tips to work on now before your kids go back to school:
 
Boredom
While dogs naturally sleep a lot during the day, when they wake up, they want something to do. Seek out toys and activities that can keep your dog entertained, even when you're not at home.
  • Scatter food.  Dogs are natural foragers who enjoy sniffing out food on the ground. Before you leave the house, scatter a variety of foods -such as bits of raw vegetables, dog kibble, and other foods that won't attract wasps-around the yard or house. Hide a few ultra-tasty treats, too, so your dog spends extra time looking for them. Be sure to provide fresh, clean water to keep your dog well hydrated.
  • Toys.  Dogs love toys, but they can get bored with or destroy them.  Buy high-quality, virtually indestructible puzzle toys that your dog will always enjoy, especially those that hold treats like the Classic KONG.  Every week or so, rotate what toys are available to your dog to give him something new and fun to hold his interest.

Separation Anxiety
With everyone away from the house all day, dogs left alone can become stressed. This stress can result in destructive behaviors and endless barking. Follow these tips to help reduce the potential anxiety of separation.
  • Start early.  A few weeks before your children return to school, get your dog used to being alone.  Begin by separating him from the kids and the rest of the family.  For example, if you frequently take your dog with you to run errands, leave him at home instead.
  • Pay less attention to your dog.  While your dog may be the center of attention when the kids are home all day, you need to change this scenario before they return to school so that he can adjust more quickly to the quiet time. About a week before school starts, pay increasingly less attention to your dog each day.
  • Practice leaving the house.  Go through the motions of leaving the house.  Pick up your keys and go out the door, but then come right back in again. The dog will cease associating the routine of your leaving the house with your departure.  This will help him to be more relaxed when you actually leave.
  • When you leave When the last person leaves the house for the day, don't confuse your dog by saying soothingly, "Don't worry, Wolfie-we'll be home soon. Be a good boy." If he is feeling concerned that you're leaving, your sweet-toned voice can make him think its okay to feel anxious. Dogs are animals that instinctively rely on a defined social structure, and so they expect their leaders to be strong when they leave the group. Therefore, ignore your dog for about 10 minutes before you leave.

As I mentioned earlier, it is important that you start this new routine BEFORE everyone starts back to school.  This allows you the time to work with your dog to acclimate him with your new “school-time” routime. As always, if you have any questions or need additional information, please contact us at Great South Florida Dog Trainers.

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