School Daze

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Your household becomes a hive of activity. School supplies are organized, lunch snacks are selected, and the many things needed to start a new school year are scattered across the house. Excited children connect with old friends, and parents deal with the details of daycare, transportation, and fall activities. The atmosphere is filled with a positive energy, and your family dog is filled with a sense of anticipation.

The first few days of school arrive, and then it happens; you rush out, the door closes, and the family dog sits alone wondering where everyone has gone. At first he thinks his family has inadvertently left him behind. Hoping to get their attention, he begins to whine and then to bark. When that doesn’t work, he scratches on the window ledge and then on the door. His anxiety builds!

His thoughts drift to his family. He misses them! He misses their voices — he misses their smells. He walks by the boot box and suddenly he senses something comforting. A slipper infused with the scent of ‘his children’ captures his interest. He gently pulls the slipper out of the shoe box and places it between his paws. He rests his muzzle on the slipper and is content for awhile. But then he feels the aloneness creep over him again, so he begins to nibble the tip of the slipper, then he rips out the sole, and scatters pieces across the floor.

Unsatisfied, he looks for something more active to engage. He begins to hunt through the living room. Finding no children to play with, he latches onto a cushion. He wrestles it to the floor and beats the stuffing out of it. He drags the tattered cover to his temporary lair under the dining room table. He contemplates his next move.

It is impossible for us to really know what a dog thinks immediately before it embarks on a spree of chewing and destruction. We do know that many such incidents happen when a dog is left alone after a summer vacation. A few simple precautions can help your dog to cope with times when the family must leave and the dog must be left alone.

Exercise helps dogs to release energy. When family schedules change, increase your dog’s exercise. A long, brisk morning walk, or a bike ride before everyone leaves for school or work will help your dog to relax while you are gone.

Getting your dog to think can help them stay calm. Before you leave the house, get your dog to respond to a variety of obedience commands. Reward them with treats and praise.

Enroll your dog in classes with other dogs. Dogs need social stimulation. They are pack animals and benefit from regular visits with others of their kind.

This fall, when your family schedule changes from vacation mode to work mode, ensure that your dog is exercised, given plenty of opportunities to play, and is secured in a safe place. Be a leader your dog can trust and respect.

Noel Pepin — Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists