How to help your dog avoid the back to school blues

Posted by Betty. December 1st 2015.

With the summer holidays now nearing an end, children across the country will be going back to school this month and leaving their precious pets home alone again.

Dr. Nick Dodman, of Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts, believes dogs can suffer from the ‘Back To School Blues’ and has written an advice guide to prevent your pet from becoming a victim.

A French Mastiff dog looks a little bit depressed

Why do dogs get the ‘Back to School Blues’?

Sensitive dogs get used to having people around and become distressed when circumstances change. This is because they find themselves relatively deserted and confined at home on their own more often.

Some dogs like having a routine and enjoy having people around them as part of their ‘normal’ day. Changes in company and routine will precipitate separation anxiety in them.,

For example, if an owner who is a teacher goes back to school – or kids go back after the summer holidays – this can affect their pet and how they feel.

Even if an owner has been at home for a long spell, such as an illness, when they finally get back to work some pets can get separation anxiety.

This can sometimes be referred to as Monday Morning Disease (MMD) because it’s worse on a Monday when owners go back to work after a long weekend at home or when kids go back to school. MMD is a mini version of what happens in September when the whole household gets back to work after a long summer.

A young Dogue de Bordeaux puppy doesn't look too happy


What signs should owners look for if they think their dog is suffering?

They may only notice ‘pre-departure anxiety’ and exuberant greetings on their return, but they could find their neighbours complaining about the dog’s barking, howling or whining whilst they are out.

Owners may also find their dog has destroyed things in their absence or even had ‘accidents’ on the floor while they are away.

Does it affect certain breeds more than others?

Mixed breeds are more likely to suffer from this condition or dogs with a shelter history because of their background and upbringing.

Key tips to help your pet avoid suffering 

  • Be unemotional when leaving the house and make the environment super interesting when you have to be away for a long time.
  • Give your pet food puzzles to solve or add interesting odours – like rabbit scent – to durable chew toys.
  • Put them in a room with a view, such as one with a bird feeder outside or squirrels to keep them entertained.
  • Play specially-engineered music for your dog while you are away or put TV channels or the radio on for them.
  • Only offer a low key greeting on return. This keeps things normal and reduces the chance of them feeling a ‘high’ when you are around.
  • When home, try some independence training. Five to ten minutes of enforced separation will help get them used to being on their own
  • Giving the dog something to do (a chew toy) and a comfortable bed to lie on can also help the dog learn to stand on his own four feet.
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