Back-to-School Blues: Your Dog and Separation Anxiety

Mar_2014_1Though summer is in full swing, the start of a new school year is just around the corner. While you’re getting ready for the start of a new year, there is some other important business to attend to: your dog.

The start of a new school year often means the start of separation anxiety for dogs. Dogs are pack animals and don’t adjust well to being alone after spending an entire summer palling around with their best friends.

How do you know if Fido is suffering from separation anxiety? If he’s leaving “presents” around the house (urine or poop), if he’s tearing things up or if he’s barking and whining uncontrollably, you can be pretty sure he’s having anxiety about the absence of his best friends.

Here are some tips you can use to soothe your four-legged family member:

  • Ease into it. Gradually introduce him to being alone. Start by leaving him alone for controlled periods of time and gradually increase that time before school starts.
  • Keep him busy. Keeping your dog occupied will distract him from your absence. Offer him a new chew toy, a bone or a food-dispensing puzzle toy. Your pup will associate his family leaving the house with getting a treat and will stay busy for a while. Remember to read the product packaging and do not leave your dog with any toys or treats that require supervision.
  • Skip the drama at the door. Skip the dramatic reunion when you return and let him settle down before rewarding him with attention and play time.
  • Don’t scold. If you come home to a “present” or some destruction, don’t scold your pup. He’s going to be excited to see you and won’t understand why you’re mad. Scolding may actually intensify his anxiety.

These tips should help ease your pooch into being home alone. However, if you suspect your dog is suffering from severe anxiety, take him to the vet. Your vet may offer more advice and options to help your dog cope.