Did you realise that the change in routine of kids in the family being at home for two weeks, and then disappearing again for no understandable dog reason can have an emotional impact on your beloved furbaby? I am sure that most of you are aware of this as you can see it in the change in your dog’s behaviour. When your kids are suddenly present all the time, there is more noise, more activity, more energy around the place and all of these various stimuli are being absorbed by your dog and your dog is having to process all of these extra things. You probably notice this in the way that your dog’s behaviour changes and mimics that of your children e.g. more active, more excited, less calm! However, when the children return to their normal school routine, and suddenly are no longer there for the dog, this abrupt change in the amount of human contact, attention and energy in the place will also impact on your dog.
Routines and consistency are key factors that your dog relies on to be able to stay calm and safe and connect with the world around it. Anything that impacts on these routines, causing a change in routines are triggers for emotional difficulties for a dog which often result in stress behaviours such as chewing, barking, running in circles as the dog tries to channel out the emotional stress in its body through physical actions.
How can you help your dog through these school holiday transitions?
The best thing that you can do is to adapt your non-school holiday routines and your school holiday routines with your dog to help transition your dog between the two phases. The school holiday often means that the family get up a little later, have breakfast later, then spend most of the day in and out of the house and the dog is or is not with the family, on walks and drives to holiday destinations. Just by altering the timing and routines of the last few days of your holiday can make such a difference to the stress on your dog for when the kids go back to school:
Transition back to the normal morning routine
e.g. wake up a little earlier than holiday time and give your dog their breakfast and their morning exercise back at their normal time, or at least, a little closer to that.
Transition back to the normal daily routine
e.g. organise for the family to go out for an hour during the day without your dog and leave the radio on playing in your dog’s area. The sound of human voices via the radio in place of the family’s voices will help to calm your dog in the family’s absence. Taking the time to do this will also make the process of having to be on its own for lengths of time a gradual and manageable change. Leaving the radio on whenever you leave your dog at home alone is a really great idea.
Prepare for heightened emotions
e.g. play with your dog with their tuggy toys or Kong to make them especially valuable and exciting. This way, when the kids are picking up their lunchboxes in their school uniform to head out the door, you can distract your dog from this source of anxiety by asking them to play with their chew toys.
A tip to help prevent separation anxiety every day, not just school holidays …
Yes – you can actually make a small change in the way you interact with your dog to help them cope with the comings and goings of your family and help to prevent separation anxiety from building. Train everyone in your family to be calm and peaceful when greeting your dog or leaving your dog. Speak calmly and without all of the baby talk and excited handling and touching. By keeping the drama out of each departure or reunion will role-model for your dog that there is no need to get emotional about family members coming or going from the home.