Bark to School: Changes in Routine can Affect Your Pooch

Summertime is the best and this summer has been exceptional -- but now sadly we are riding the tail end of this glorious season. Parents have been busy shopping for school supplies and posting adorable Facebook pictures of their kids heading off on their first day, teachers are back to their classrooms, and some strange people (like me) are beginning to yearn for fall weather and pumpkin spice lattes.

When our schedules change as we head into another hectic school year, don't forget about your furry family members. Whether that means no one will be at home with the family dog during the day anymore, or our dogs’ time home alone all day is simply lengthened due to lots of after school activities, there will be a noticeable change in routine for your pooch.

Here are a few things that we can do to make this transition to a new schedule easier for our furry friends:

1. Routine

As our "people" schedules change for the fall, our dog’s schedule will also change as a result. He will be facing long lonely days at home alone instead of fun-filled adventures with kids in the backyard or just chill'n as moral support for a round gaming.

Pets value routine, so best practice -- set a schedule that can be followed all year long. All summer the dog's dinner time was 5:30 pm but, with the start of school Max won't get dinner until 7 pm. It's now 6:30 pm and you return home to find your pantry invaded and a box of crackers torn bits and gobbled up, or your lovely stack of magazines are now shredded and strewn everywhere! Have patience, don't be surprised by "behaviour breakouts" and work to keep a consistent routine and feeding times. Continuity will be your best friend to prevent behaviour breakouts -- like pantry raiding. Dogs like to know what to expect and are creatures of habit. They love to know when to expect their meals and daily walk, and they look forward to them everyday without fail.

2. Crate Training

Besides forming a consistent schedule for mealtimes, walks, playtime and rest that can be followed all year round, it may be a good idea to crate train your dog. This will be especially helpful for young dogs or puppies who may still have some housebreaking or chewing issues and who cannot be trusted alone all day.

Dog's have an inherent denning instinct, but if you don’t want to crate your dog everyday, or if you are trying to wean him from needing a crate, then I would suggest this. Start by leaving him home alone for a few minutes while you go for a walk down the street. Return and see if anything was destroyed in your home or if you can hear frantic barking as you leave. If everything seems okay, extend your outings a little longer. Try leaving your dog uncrated while you go on a quick visit to the grocery store. Stretch out the length of time you leave your dog home alone slowly to see how long your dog can go uncrated with good behavior. I would start this process well before it is time for your schedule to change, in case there are any snags!

3. Routine Exercise

The best way to get your dog to sleep through the day at home contentedly is to exercise him regularly! If you can't manage to take your dog for exercise every morning before you leave the house, tag Funk + Waggers in! We are here to provide an awesome brain break and engaging exercise while you're at work. A consistent walk will make a huge difference in your dog’s behavior and restfulness at home throughout the day.

I cannot stress to you enough how important exercise is, especially for dogs with high energy levels and high anxiety levels. And for our more mature canine companions, just to get outside to enjoy some fresh air, sniff out what's up in their neighbourhood -- elevates the spirit and provides exercise. From a focused, spirited 1-hour walk to an engaging 30-minute Happy Dog visit, we are here to help keep things consistent for your pooch!

4. Distractions

After routine exercise, another good way to help keep your dog calm throughout the day is to find things to occupy his time. A walk will help get the "ya-ya's" out so he’ll sleep for at least a few hours, but leaving him in the house with a treat stuffed Kong toy that will take some time and brain power to eat, will help keep him distracted and focused on the right thing. Try freezing peanut butter or plain yogurt in a Kong to make a long-lasting and cold treat. I also like to hide small treats around the house for your dog to find once I've left. Just make sure you are leaving out treats and toys that do not require supervision and do not have parts that can come off and be swallowed while you are not home.

If you give your dog a Kong treat every morning when you leave for the day, suddenly it becomes a happy and exciting time for our dogs instead of scary and lonely.

Ideally, your dog should receive his treat when you leave the house, spend a while eating it, then Funk + Waggers arrives for walk time and upon return your pooch calmly naps for the rest of the day until you return home. When you get home, take him for a quick walk right away as a reward for good behavior and for a bio-brake.

If you strive to make your departure from and reunion with your pet each day an exciting and pleasurable time, your dog will simply look forward to it!

What do your dog’s schedule and routine look like?

About the author: Tori is a lifetime pet lover who spends her days joyously caring for and engaging with her clients and their dogs and cats. She is the owner of Funk + Waggers, a south west Toronto, south Etobicoke and south Mississauga area based dog walking, puppy support, dog and cat sitting company. Her objective is to share with pet owners everywhere the importance of exercise, engagement, and leadership for raising happy, thriving, well adjusted pets.

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