The summer holidays are almost over, and there is a scent of autumn in the air. New school shoes have all been shopped for and it is nearly time for the kids to return to school days again. The traffic will change to the busier term time, too.

We humans understand all about this time of year; it can be a bit difficult to get back into that routine. That adjustment is at least something we recognise. How about what our dogs and other pets might think of this seemingly sudden change to their daily lives?

As we know, dogs are very attached to their human families. They observe us at all times, predicting what we will do next, whether it is time for a walk or a game, or is it magical dinnertime? Over the summer, many family dogs will have become used to having the children around all day. Even if you don’t have children in your own home, they are out and about (especially this summer when they have been chasing Pokémon characters). Suddenly without warning, the kids are no longer there, and your dogs will notice.

As I mentioned, dogs are very good at observing routine. They are brilliant associative learners, meaning that they quickly form links between one event and an outcome. It is not surprising that they can suddenly miss what was a prior, enjoyable occasion, perhaps playing in the garden with the family on a sunny day. Suddenly, those people are not there.

Additionally, dogs often form strong attachments to us; sometimes this can be an individual in the family more than any other, or it can be all of us. It is natural that when that person is no longer around, that the dog might feel like there has been a loss.

By seeing things from the dog’s point of view, we can also decide how best to make sure they don’t suffer from the back to school blues.

  • Prepare the new routine. If your dog is going to be walked earlier, bring the walk forward in time a little each day now.
  • Provide new companions. Dogs do not enjoy being alone for long periods. They are sociable creatures, and often develop behaviour problems if they are kept by themselves. Look around for an insured, experienced dog walker or daytime dog sitter that can give your dog some daytime activity. Your dog will not miss you if they have a bunch of new playmates!
  • Make sure your dog has lots to do. Activity games, walks in new places, playing with their dog playmates, are all ways to divert their attention. They will not have a moment to consider the loss of company after school begins.
  • Take your dog to school! Not the one with the children in it, why not enrol in a fun training class or activity such as agility to give your dog the mental stimulation they will lose when back to school starts.

Have fun!

Karen Wild, CCAB – Dog trainer and clinical animal behaviourist