He’s had a great summer playing with the kids, romping outside, enjoying nonstop family time but now, as August rolls on and the first day of school approaches, it is time to prepare your dog for the major attention downshift ahead. A bit of thoughtful prep time now can spare you canine upset in the form of demanding behavior, unwanted chewing or an uptick in barking.
- Try Not to Over Compensate
Guilt makes us indulgent. We try to compensate for one thing that may be hard for our loved one by heaping attention and indulgence on elsewhere. As much as we hope that will help, it usually hurts. It hurts because it confuses the dog further, making the contrast between being alone and being with you even worse. So, don’t heap on the “loves and kisses” instead, do what I suggest below. Both you and your dog will benefit.
- Dust Off the Dog Crate
Even if your dog isn’t regularly crated anymore, doing so again for the first few weeks of transition can prevent habits from starting. Habits we consider “bad” but dogs can consider very, very good. Destuffing the couch? FUN! Ripping into the garbage? DELIGHTFUL! Problem prevention is always easier than problem fixing so prevent, prevent, prevent.
- Stock Up on Interesting Toys
“Interesting” is usually code for chewable or food-dispensing. I think of them as coloring books for dogs. Such items give them things to do when they are bored and/or a bit stressed because idle jaws at the devil dog’s workshop.
- Lace Up
Adding exercise to anyone’s regime lowers stress. I like to go at least a mile in the morning with a dog likely to be stressed. For grown dogs, more like two or three. That alone can ease any upset they may feel during the day (and it’s a great stress reducer for you, too). I know it can be tricky to schedule in so brainstorming some family support or switching to night walks are options to explore. You do need to invest in good walking shoes then replace them as you can if you’re going to start logging serious mileage.
- Hug Them with Structure
Rules and expectations taught fairly and applied consistently are some of the kindest things you can do for any dog, especially for stressed, anxious and/or in transition dogs. All sorts of games and instructions can be found in My Smart Puppy but one easy thing to add is routine. Ideally routine that develops self-control such as sitting before petting, food, going outside or any time your dog wants something. This simple act helps give their day structure and structure is good. Knowing what to expect and how to please you is good. And it is easy. Yes, it takes a few extra seconds at first but gets easier every day and will have lovely happy side effects, too. Do it and you’ll find out what I mean.
Taking these actions early can smooth the way for your cherished four-footed family member so that none of you have to deal with upset and distress. Doing this sort of “ahead of time” care makes you my kind of dog lover!