Back to School is Ruff for Dogs (AKA Everyone Left Me So I Will Howl and then Eat the Couch)

Where’d everybody go? Photo: Matthew Henry via Unsplash

Back-to-school time is here for hoomans — and the change in routine can be a challenge for pups.

One of the best parts about having a dog is the unconditional love they give, for better or worse. Better, as in they absolutely adore you, showing it with wagging tails and full-body wiggles when you come home, even if you were only gone for two minutes. Kisses! Sloppy, dainty, nonstop — we’ll take ‘em all. Bellies up for rubs. Leaning in — dogs claim the original version. (Sorry biz speak.) Wordless comfort, endless entertainment, boundless affection.

And worse, as in they reeeeeally neeeeed you, showing it by barking, howling, or whining when they can’t be with you. Pacing, shaking, or drooling when isolated from you. Destroying the house and/or its contents when you leave. Attempting escape (or succeeding) from wherever they are confined when you’re gone. Having accidents inside when you’re out.

The common thread in the “worse” examples: They can’t be with you. These undesirable behaviors may mean your dog is exhibiting separation anxiety, and their response levels can range from minor and momentary to extreme in both action and duration. What can cause separation anxiety? One key factor is a noticeable change in routine brought on by a vacation, a new job with different hours — and perhaps a different daycare for them, or that seasonal biggie, back to school.

Even the school-to-summer transition can lead to dogs acting out, but that’s likely because they’re excited to have more hoomans around more often. And the ratio of available people to attention-received should remain constant. (Fur-give us, we’re channeling doggy logic here.) When the kids go back to school the adult schedules may or may not change much, but having the little person or people gone a big part of the day can trigger separation anxiety and the reactions that go along with it. Add sports, lessons, and other activities that start up again in the fall, and you’ve just thrown your pooch’s comfortably predictable agenda into a tailspin. 

back to school dogs

How to ease the back-to-school transition for your dog:

  1. Rule number one is keeping your cool when you leave. Yes, you’ll miss their furry lil’ butts, too, but pretend you won’t. And do the same when you greet them. Make both your goodbyes and hellos as low-key as you can. The “Hi!” is a major highlight for all of us dog parents but those who know best say downplaying comings and goings will really help pups struggling with this problem.
  2. Keep other activities the same as much as possible. Try not to change mealtimes. Stick with the same exercise routine.
  3. If your new routine means being away longer than usual, a stuffed Kong or other busy toy can go a long way toward keeping things positive for your pup.
  4. Be patient. The new schedule will become the new normal soon enough. Just in time for the hectic howl-idays!

What would you add to this list? Doo tell!

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