Back to school can be a hard time for all of us. Back to routine. Back to the kids going to school and parents off to work. This can be especially hard for our dogs, when they’ve had their people around all the time. Plenty of entertainment, constant company and then it’s back to long days of being lonely and bored.
We try to include our dogs into as many activities as we can, and over the school holidays it is extra fun with the kids. We even took ours to the farm in Dubbo when we went for a visit over Christmas.
It’s particularly hard if you’ve brought a new puppy into your lives over the Christmas break. Christmas is one of the most common times for puppies to be adopted. There are lots of puppies available, as often breeders aim for a litter that is ready for Christmas. It can be a really convenient time as people are generally home to do the toilet training, and can bask in the joy that is a puppy. These puppies have never in their lives been home alone, so it is a major change for them.
Ensure your pets have somewhere they feel safe and secure. If they are inside dogs, you can make sure they have access to the house with a doggy door (although not always ideal with a puppy….). Make sure they have access to plenty of water, and they have lots of shade and somewhere to keep cool. Somewhere that’s comfortable that they can sleep, and somewhere they can hide out if a big scary storm hits, or its pouring with rain.
Making sure they are adequately entertained can be challenging, especially with a puppy that just wants to chew, but doesn’t always make the best choices in what to chew. Supply them with lots of toys, and fun things to chew. Toys you can stuff with food can be really fun. A little smear of peanut butter, or fish paste can entice them to play for hours. A food toy, where they need to work to get the food out, encourages play, and takes time, which is ideal to pass the hours of a long day at home alone. There are toys on the market that can be stuffed and frozen. This makes the food much harder to get out, and can increase the time it takes.
A timed food releasing toy can help to stagger their meals, and provide a puppy with a midday meal, which they often still need, although these only work for a kibble fed dog. A large frozen icypole, that is a large block of ice, with their meal frozen in the middle, that can take a few hours to melt enough for little puppy teeth to access the food can be an option for a homemade diet .
I always like to have two dogs, so even if they are home alone, they still have the company of each other. They can just hang out, or even play together. Another option if you’re going to be away all day, everyday, is a doggy daycare. If you have a friendly neighbour that has a dog, you could plan some day visits. Even a fence the dogs can see each other through, or a little ‘window’ in the fence, so they are not completely isolated. Giving the dog a special sandpit, or dirt pit, where they are allowed to dig and play in. You can bury little treasures, like toys, or treats in the sand, and they can find it through the day whilst home alone.
When you first go back to school or back to work it can be a really stressful time for your dog and anxieties can develop from these feelings of abandonment. Some herbs can help to reduce the stress response in dogs, and help them to adapt and cope with the changes. Withania, chamomile, green oats, Siberian ginseng and passionflower to name a few. Rescue remedy Bach flower remedy in their water pots can also help.
What activities do you leave for your dogs when they are left home alone, especially after school holidays, where it has been a full on 6 weeks of fun-time with the kids? What are your favourite ways to manage this transition?
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Give your dog a pat for me.