Miniature schnauzer dog studyingIt’s about time for the kids to go back to school, and that often means big changes in your household. You may notice your dog suffering from anxiety, or even acting out, as the house is emptier during the day and everyone gets into the swing of the new fall routine. Thankfully, you may be able to prevent these back to school pet problems before they start, or help your pup to make an easier transition.

The First Step is Admitting There is a Problem

A dog’s anxiety can take numerous forms. Often owners recognize that there is a change in behavior or personality, but they may not be able to put their finger on the cause. Other times, the symptoms are more obvious.

Your dog may be affected by the new routine if he or she:

  • Seems to have less energy
  • Hides more
  • Has a decreased appetite
  • Barks excessively
  • Whines more than normal
  • Destroys objects or property
  • Urinates and/or defecates in the house

Of course, many of these symptoms can be indicative of other problems, so you may want to have your pet examined if one or more of these issues is present.

Stopping Problems Before They Start

To minimize the chances of your dog experiencing difficulties as school starts again, be sure to:

  • Preserve as much predictability in your dog’s daily routine as you can since canines tend to have a difficult time with change
  • If possible, start introducing your dog to changes in the family schedule that will happen once school is in session to help them acclimate
  • Spend a little more time away from home (and your dog) to help them adjust to more time alone
  • Increase opportunities for daily exercise, petting and play once school starts if possible
  • Provide environmental enrichment (a new toy, extra attention, or a special treat may be just the ticket) or even consider using bio-acoustically enhanced music sound therapy for pets such as “Through a Dog’s Ear”.

Dogs and people both thrive in a predictable and stimulating environment where they are safe and loved. Provide your dog with some extra attention during this sometimes difficult transition.

Troubleshooting Back to School Pet Problems

If you are already noticing signs of anxiety, or seeing new behavior issues, you may want to first talk with your family veterinarian to be sure that there are no health issues affecting your furry friend. If your dog’s health is okay, you can troubleshoot problems with some of these methods:

Enrichment – Increased exercise and mental stimulation can do wonders for some dogs. It may be useful for a friend or pet sitter to check on your dog mid-day. Interactive toys can be very beneficial as well.

Low-stress environment – If your dog is anxious about your family’s absences, it can help to keep your comings and goings calm and low key (if that is possible with kids).

Natural anxiolytics – Pheromones such as Adaptil are easy to add to your dog’s environment and can help to ease fears in many pets. Natural supplements may also be beneficial–Solliquin, Zylkene, Composure or Anxitane®.

Training – Professional training can help some canines adjust. Positive reinforcement training utilizes food or toys to reward desired response or behavior. Avoid verbal reprimands for anxious dogs and don’t startle your dog to correct misbehavior.

Medications – Anti-anxiety medications like clomipramine (Clomicalm) and fluoxetine (Prozac) may be advisable if your dog’s anxiety continues. Certain anti-anxiety medications are useful for acute onset anxiety [e.g. alprazolam, trazodone, or clonidine]. These types of medications can be very effective in reducing anxiety.

Oakland Veterinary Referral Services also offers behavioral services for dogs who are having more trouble than most.

As the hustle and bustle of back to school starts, don’t forget your friends with four legs. A little thought and effort as the transition begins may help ward off back to school pet problems and keep everyone in your home happier.