What can I do to prevent my dog from getting blue when the school year starts and my kids go back to school?

Dogs are very social animals, and they’ll see it as a sudden disappearance when their kid sisters and brothers go back to school—and they’re left without a playmate. That can result in all kinds of destructive behavior and anxiety, such as digging, excessive barking, chewing and more.

Treat this as any kind of separation anxiety. First, understand your dog’s behavior. Your dog is not destroying your house to spite or get back at you or the kids. Your dog is highly stressed and cannot handle being by herself—remember, she’s possibly had a couple of months of playing and romping. Now she feels she’s alone—and you need to help her with that.

Whatever you do, don’t punish your dog for separation problems. Especially if you punish your dog after the fact, it will only confuse your dog and make the behavior worse and your dog will possibly even associate the punishment with the kids coming home.

You can try:

• Extra walks or attention. If she’s anxious, she’ll have a lot of pent-up energy and that’s a recipe for disaster. Extra walks, play and attention will help that. Try to set aside a few moments each day just for her.
• Make her feel secure. Will you be gone as well? Give her a small, safe spot just for her; if she’s crate-trained, set it up as her “room” with a favorite toy, feeding and drinking bowls, maybe an article of clothing. If she’s not crate-trained, separate a small part of a room.
• Teach her some basic obedience commands. Increases confidence, strengthens your bond, decreases her boredom and really tires her out.
• Food puzzles: They’re those toy-like objects with the little holes in which you hide food. She has to work at it for 20 to 30 minutes to get the food out, so it provides a lot of mental and physical stimulation.
• Doggie day-care: Provides a lot of fun and socialization.

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