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Bark to School: Changes in Our Routines Impact Our Dogs

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Summertime is my favorite time of year, but now it is sadly starting to come to a close. Parents are busy shopping for school supplies and posting adorable pictures of their children holding “Back to School” posters on Facebook, teachers are getting back into their classrooms, and some strange people (not me) are beginning to yearn for fall weather and pumpkin lattes.

When all of our schedules change for the hectic school year ahead, we need to remember to think about our furry family members as well. Whether that means no one will be at home with the family dog during the day anymore, or whether our dogs’ time at home alone all day is simply lengthened due to lots of after school activities, there will be a noticeable change in routine for your dog!

Here are a few things that we can do to make this transition to a new schedule easier for our furry friends:

1. Routine

Black Lab playing with a tennis ball.

Did you adopt a new dog or puppy over the summer when there was a lot of time for the family to bond with and train the new addition? That’s great, but now that our human schedules will start changing for the fall, our dog’s schedule will also start to change as a result. He will be facing long lonely days at home alone instead of fun-filled adventures with kids in the backyard.

It would be a good idea to set a schedule that can be followed all year long as soon as possible upon getting our new dog or puppy. Won’t be able to feed Fido dinner until 7pm when school starts? Then don’t feed him at 5:30 pm all summer. Otherwise, don’t be surprised or upset when you come home at 6:30 on the first day of school to find your pantry invaded and a bag of chips torn open and eaten! Dogs like to know what to expect and are creatures of habit. They love to know when to expect their meals and daily walk, and they look forward to them every day without fail.

2. Crate Training

Besides forming a consistent schedule for mealtimes, walks, playtime and rest that can be followed all year round, it may be a good idea to crate train your dog. This will be especially helpful for young dogs or puppies who may still have some housebreaking or chewing issues and who cannot be trusted alone all day.
A black and tan dog sleeping in a crate.

If you don’t want to crate your dog every day, or if you are trying to wean him from needing a crate, then I would suggest this. Start by leaving him home alone for a few minutes while you go for a walk down the street. Return and see if anything was destroyed in your home or if you can hear frantic barking as you leave. If everything seems okay, leave your dog uncrated while you go to the grocery. Stretch out the length of time you leave your dog home alone slowly to see how long your dog can go uncrated with good behavior. I would start this process well before it is time for your schedule to change in case there are any snags!

For more information on crate training, read our blog on how to do it here.

3. Exercise

A dog out for a walk at Sunset.

The best way to get your dog to sleep through the day at home contentedly is to exercise him regularly! If you can manage to take your dog for exercise every morning before you leave the house, it will make a huge difference in your dog’s behavior and restfulness at home alone all day.

I cannot stress to you enough how important exercise is, especially for dogs with high energy levels and high anxiety levels. It’s worth taking up exercising yourself just to go running with your dog and be able to see the excitement, changes in behavior and long-term health benefits!

4. Distractions

After your morning exercise, another good way to help keep your dog calm all day is to find things to occupy his time. You’ve already worn him out so he’ll sleep for at least a few hours, so now leave him in the house with rawhides and stuffed Kong toys that will take some time to eat. Try freezing peanut butter or plain yogurt in a Kong to make a long-lasting and cold treat. You can also hide small treats around the house for your dog to find while you are gone. Just make sure you are leaving out treats and toys that do not require supervision and do not have parts that can come off and be swallowed while you are not home!

A white lab chewing on a bone.

If you give your dog a rawhide every morning when you leave for the day, suddenly it becomes a happy and exciting time for our dogs instead of scary and lonely.

Ideally, your dog should receive his treat when you leave the house, spend a while eating it, then calmly nap for most of the day until you return home. When you get home, you should take him for a walk right away as a reward for good behavior (and to relieve himself). If you strive to make your departure from and reunion with your pet each day an exciting and pleasurable time, your dog will simply look forward to it!

What do your dog’s schedule and routine look like?

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