What could be cuter than watching your kids play with the family dog during the long, lazy days of summer? Kids of all ages are going back to school right now, an annual event that impacts not just kids and parents, but your four-legged family members as well. Your kids may be dreading the end of summer and the start of a new school year, but what about your dog?
According to the experts at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, dogs can feel a strong sense of loss when their young human companions go back to school. Separation anxiety occurs in some dogs (an estimated 17%) who have difficulty coping with the absence of their owners. The sudden absence of the kids at back to school time can be especially hard for certain dogs.
What can dog owners do to help their pets cope with back to school separation anxiety? Here are some great suggestions from the veterinary school:
- Provide enrichment by supplying your dog with what’s called “solitary play strategies”—giving dogs things to do with their mouths and bodies to keep them occupied. This means stocking up on some new and stimulating chew and squeaky toys. Interactive food toys like Kongs are also good.
- Give your dog access to the important “social” areas of the house, like the living room or kitchen. Your dog will have less desire to escape if they are near you, or even the scent of missing family members.
- Get your dog accustomed to the idea of being alone by engaging in practice sessions on days when you are at home. Have everyone leave the house for a short time so your dog gets used to it.
- Encourage your kids to change their behaviors when they leave for school and also when they return. In the hour before school, they should become “unavailable” (reduce petting and play). During the first half hour when they come home, your kids should try to be “boring” and not act excited to see the dog. Sounds harsh, but this method will make the separation easier for your dog in the long run.