Even dogs get the back to school blues

Posted by Dr Dog. September 23rd 2016.

It’s September again and, for most families, this means back to school. While these three little words evoke groans from most children, we often forget the impact this sudden change in household dynamic can have upon our pets. Leaving your dog alone can make him feel unsettled.

Most dogs are extremely social creatures and enjoy human company, which is why we love them so much. However this does mean that, when they’re suddenly left alone for long periods of time, they can become depressed or start to exhibit separation-related behaviour such as pacing, whining, barking, having toilet accidents and destroying your home.

While The Secret Life of Pets movie might tell the fictional story of what pets get up to when their owners aren’t around, the RSPCA has taken the opportunity to highlight the issue and conduct some research into pets who are left alone at home.

The research found that 85 per cent of the dogs they studied showed signs of not coping with being alone. There are roughly 8.5 million pet dogs in the UK. This means there are 7 million dogs who suffer from separation anxiety.

This might explain the back to school behaviour of your pooch. If they’ve been enjoying family company for six blissful weeks over the school summer holidays, they might not relish the thought of spending long hours alone each day. We understand that this is unavoidable for most pet owners but, thankfully, there are measures we can all take to ease the stress on our dogs.

Our top tips for leaving your dog alone and preventing the dreaded canine back to school blues:

  • Don’t make a fuss when leaving the house; be calm, act natural and be completely unemotional. We know that’s hard, but it will help keep your dog calm.
  • Try to make time to take your dog for a walk in the morning before you leave. If you can’t, take him out on the school run before leaving him alone. This will burn off some of his excess energy, which can help prevent frustration and destructive behaviour.
  • In the evenings, try some independence training. This will help your dog get used to the idea that they won’t be left forever. If you leave them alone for 5 or 10 minutes in another part of the house, they’ll slowly learn that you will always come back.
  • Fill the house with interesting and challenging things he can play and interact with. This might include food puzzles, scented objects for him to find and toys for him to focus his chewing on. It might just save your furniture!
  • Put the radio on a low volume to keep them company when the house is otherwise silent.
  • If you’re worried about what your pooch gets up to while you’re out of the house you can always set up a video camera to record their actions. This will either help reassure you they are coping with the anxiety or highlight issues for you to seek treatment from your vet for.
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