This is a guest blog contributed by PRO K-9, our dog training partners. PRO K-9 holds training classes on Thursdays in our upstairs training room.
The kids have started their new school year. This time of year often means a lot of change in schedules, routines and activities—even if you don't have kids or if your own schedule hasn't changed, the days are getting shorter and the weather colder. Your 4-legged family members experience these changes right along with you. Dogs thrive on routine and structure and often need time to adjust, as well as some strategies to meet their needs. Here's some things to consider if your dog seems to be stressing the new routine.
If at all possible, try to acclimate your dog to new routines ahead of time. Just like people "retrain" their sleep patterns in preparation for a new schedule, you can help your dog adjust the same way. If they are crated when you're away but have had a lot more "free range" time than usual, then have them spend a little more time in the crate during the weeks leading up to the change. By starting early, you can even desensitize them to what the new morning routine looks like, or when their walks, play or training times will be. You can play a little "catch-up" for this on the weekends, too. Have the entire family participate in your dog's care—keeping a schedule posted on the fridge can help keep the entire family on track.
When your dog is left home alone, you can help curb their stress and boredom by keeping their environment as relaxing and unstimulating as possible. First, we always recommend using a crate for your dog as the safest solution if you're unable to monitor their behavior. If your dog is not properly crate trained, often a pet gate placed in a strategic location can help to minimize their non-productive activities (such as barking at delivery people).
Keeping blinds or curtains closed and playing calming music can help to drown out exterior stressors. You can also use calming aides such as DAP (dog appeasing pheromone), or Rescue Remedy before departure to reduce stress levels. Keeping your dog busy with a food toy or puzzles (that are proven safe for them unsupervised) can also be a great way to keep them occupied, all while making better associations about being left alone.
The new school year also typically brings a lot of after-school activities, which can be extra frustrating for your dog if they are left alone even longer. Try to ensure your dog has enough time with someone familiar at home on those extra long days.
Other alternatives could be enrolling in doggie daycare, or hiring a dog walker to help get out as much excess energy as possible (see our Train While You're Away service). Your dog will always benefit from their own extra-curricular activities, such as training classes!
Every dog's needs are different. But with a little planning, you can ensure that your dog's school year is just as fulfilling as your family's. Visit our Canine Resources page for even more tips and recommendations.