Back To School Prep for Your Dog

Aug 15, 2019     |      Sophie's Circle

A dog wearing glasses asleep on a notebookPurchasing school supplies along with that first day of school outfit for growing children, planning for lunches, and working after school activities into daily schedules are all part of the back-to-school preparation for parents of school-age children. But, what about your dog's schedule? What preparation is needed to ensure he stays healthy and his home is safe and comforting while the kids are at school? Puppies and adult dogs alike can benefit from a little strategic family planning when it is time to go back to school.

Establishing a New Routine
Whether you just adopted your new loveable pup or you have a more summer hours oriented routine with a dog you brought into your home some time ago, dogs are a lot like humans in that they are happiest with an established routine they can trust. This means planning ahead to incorporate walks, meals, potty breaks, training time and playtime into your soon to be hectic schedule will go along way with preventing mischievous behavior and accidents while you are away. For puppies and dogs with separation anxiety, this is especially important. They can take comfort in trusting someone will return at set times for potty breaks and playtime or they will look forward to their time spent at doggy daycare facilities. Either way, staying consistent and making other arrangements when you cannot keep your pet's schedule will be rewarded with a closer bond with your dog, better behavior and a healthier more content pooch.  

Bring Him Along 
Even older well-trained dogs that never chew on your shoes or leave puddles on the carpet will need some time set aside for attention, just as you would if the situation was reversed. Therefore, if you have an errand to run such as going to the pet store or hardware store where you know your pet will be welcomed into the store, bring him with you. Although dogs cannot tolerate the heat sitting in a parked car on a hot sunny day in the summer, they love to go lots of places with you from outdoor patio serving restaurants to school car lines for picking up or dropping off the kids.

As dogs are pack animals, this time spent together with a member of his version of a pack on daily adventures makes him feel more included and accepted by "the pack leader". But, the best news for pet owners is this time spent together with your dog is good for you as well! Dogs are known to reduce the risk of heat attacks and strokes in their owners, and we all know how their proven stress relieving affect is useful during rush hour!  

Set Aside Quality Time
Did you know that "training time" can be a fun bonding activity with your dog? Pet owners who are gone from the home for long periods of time can still create a lasting bond with their dogs by setting aside fifteen minutes per day for training and playtime fun. Try teaching an older dog new tricks, play a game of fetch or work on agility with a small homemade course. All of these activities count for quality time and may take place in a small yard.

Leave Plenty of Water
One mistake pet owners often make is not leaving enough water for their dogs when they leave for an extended amount of time. Dogs get hot and thirsty, especially in the hotter months, and the need a constant supply of fresh clean water every day of the year. There are many self-filling bowls on the market you can hook up in your home or you can just fill up a couple of bowls, depending on how much your dog drinks during the day. However you choose to keep the water available, be sure to leave more than you think will be needed so that he will not run out while you are away.

How Long can I be Gone?
Indoor dogs without access to the outside yard will generally speaking need to be let out every four to six hours. Puppies and senior dogs typically require more frequent opportunities for potty breaks. Be sure to watch them when they go in case they get distracted and forget why they are outside. If this frequency sounds like something you cannot accommodate, never fear. The good news is Rover.com and similar websites offer a list of background checked pet sitters in your area who enjoy spending time with your dog when you cannot get home in time. There are also dog daycare facilities that provide the added benefit of socializing with other dogs. Either of these are wonderful options to explore where you can feel good knowing your dog will have a great time with all of his needs met until you can get home. 

Coping with the Separation Anxiety
Dogs that become overly nervous and stressed while you are away from the home can use some unpleasant means to let you know how they feel. After all, they cannot tell you. Thus, you may come home to find your furniture has been confused with a vet-approved chew toy or you step into a puddle when you know your adult dog is house-trained and has been witnessed peeing in the yard within less than four hours of making that puddle that is now soaking through your socks.

Should any odd behaviors arise as the result of your dog's separation anxiety, it is important to first speak with your veterinarian. There may be an underlying medical issue for the accidents or you may receive some helpful information about what you can do to help your pet feel safer and more content at home while his owner is away. Also, if your dog is not a chewer, try leaving an old shirt, hand towel or baby blanket with your scent on it in a confined safe space such as a crate or pin. Playing some soft classical music for soothing purposes and having a set routine with calm exits and entries can be additional help with stressed pets.

Overall, your dog should adapt quickly to your new fall schedule. Most dogs are great with going with the family flow as long as they have their needs met. Using the above tips can make that transition easier for everyone while ensuring all the family members, including the family pet, have a safe and wonderful back-to-school experience.