For many of you, this may be the time of back to school preparations, changes in family routines and soon-to-be empty houses. This chaotic time can also be stressful, and potentially dangerous, for your dog when they find themselves alone for longer periods.
Under-exercised or bored dogs may chew on household items that may cause cuts to the mouth, airway or intestinal obstructions and anxious dogs may even break through windows resulting in glass cuts.
However, a bit of planning ahead can reduce these risks:
1. Avoid abrupt changes and gradually introduce your dog to the new school or work routine. Leave your dog alone for longer periods of time before the first day of school or back to the regular work week. Slowly introduce the new morning rituals which may include banging lunch kits and coffee travel mugs around in the kitchen, stacking up backpacks and briefcases in the hallway and everyone leaving hastily out the front door without your dog.
2. Increase exercise to prevent boredom while alone. A tired dog really is a good dog. Yes, it means having to get up earlier but it beats having a chewed up couch, or worse, an injured dog, upon your return. How much exercise does your dog need? Ask yourself if your dog’s behaviour is bothersome, if the answer is yes, he probably needs more.
3. Join a dog training class which stimulates your dog’s brain and will tire him out. It will also help you re-connect with your dog during busy school months and late nights at the office. Check out puppy and beginner classes or specialty classes such as tricks, agility and rally-o. (Many Dogsafe Authorized Instructors and Dogsafe graduates are also dog trainers.)
4. Arrange canine play dates. Nothing tires out a high energy dog faster than a romp with other friendly canines. To save time, match up your children’s play dates with canine play dates at the same house or neighbourhood or combine staff meet-ups with canine meet-ups.
5. Teach your dog something new. Mental stimulation is very tiring and it’s worth repeating; a tired dog is a good dog. What can you teach them? Anything really, but why not have them help you hold the door open or pick up the backpack or grab the car keys or try Nina Ottosson puzzle games. Mundane tasks for you become a welcome opportunity for your dog to gain rewards that she finds motivating, such as food or a game of fetch.
6. Use mentally stimulating toys in your absence such as toys that you can stuff full of food such as Kongs or Buster Cubes. Buy a variety of toys and mix them up each day. Your dog will have to work for his breakfast, which gives him something to do while alone, and can reduce anxiety and boredom.
7. Find a professional dog walker or dog daycare to assist with your dog’s exercise needs during the back to school weeks or whenever the family schedule gets full. Most reputable walkers and daycares will have an intake assessment and a trial period so allow the time to choose a company before you really need them. Ask about experience, request references and ensure that all staff have been trained in canine first aid, safety and lost dog recovery. Find a dog professional certified in canine first aid.
8. Use natural stress and anxiety relievers such as Rescue Remedy or Thundershirts or Through a Dog's Ear music therapy CDs... but start before the first day or school or first day back to work.
If your dog shows signs of high anxiety such as extreme chewing at objects or herself, excessive barking, lack of appetite or other negative changes in behaviour, it is best to contact a professional trainer for assistance.
Hey, why not join us for a DOGSAFE canine first aid course? Check out all our courses, find your instructor or register for distance education (available across Canada and around the world).
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© 2015 Michelle Sevigny, creator of DOGSAFE Canine First Aid. www.dogsafe.ca. Text may be shared with full copyright intact.
Photo of Lucy by KathyG.