Tips and tricks for easing dog separation anxiety as kids return to school
Brooklyn veterinarian offers advice for pet owners to help their dogs continue to thrive as activity in the house dies down
As children transition from summertime to attending school each day, dogs must transition to a change in routine as well, many experiencing separation anxiety. Therefore in a company release,1 Brett Levitzke, DVM, chief medical officer with Veterinary Emergency and Referral Group (VERG) Brooklyn, outlined signs of separation anxiety, plus tips for preventing dog depression and other behaviors they may exhibit as a result.
“Any abrupt change in routine can trigger a dog's anxiety. Because dogs lack a concept of time, a change in routine that leaves them separated from people they’ve grown accustomed to can cause severe behavioral issues when left alone,” shared Levitzke, in the organizational release.1 “These behavioral issues can cause anxiety within the pet owners themselves, so it’s best to act quickly and take simple steps to ease a dog’s anxiety, as well as your own.”
Signs a dog may be experiencing separation anxiety include: prolonged howling and barking, unwanted chewing, excessive pacing, using the bathroom indoors, and trying to escape.
Levitzke suggested pet parents reference these tips to help alleviate a dog’s distress1:
- Feed freezable chew toys. Stuff the chew toys with peanut butter or another dog-friendly spread so they can remain entertained and distracted from their stress. Freezing the toy allows the activity to last longer and provides mental stimulation. Store the toy away when you return home as this indicates to your dog that your departure is routine and you will be back.
- Find a daycare or sitter. Enrolling your dog at an animal daycare several days a week may be useful because spending time with other dogs and people may help decrease anxiety. Additionally, setting up a stop-in or routine walk may offer companionship your dog can use during the day.
- Go on an early walk with your dog. Routinely taking your dog on a 30-minute walk early in the morning will give them an abundance of exercise and hopefully tire them out.
- Plan dog-friendly activities. When your family returns home, it’s essential they spend quality time with the dog. When making out-of-home plans looking for places to eat, search for dog-friendly establishments so they don’t spend entire days alone.
- Play background noise. You can play talk radio or related noise that provides your dog a sense that they are not totally alone. This emulates the noise they heard while the house was full during the summer.
- Install a “nanny-cam.” Sometimes it is hard to tell if a dog is expericing separation anxiety. Placing a camera in a common area enables you to get a better idea of your dog's mental well-being .
If the dog continues to experience separation anxiety and display destructive behaviors, pet owners should consult their veterinarian.
Brooklyn veterinarian shares tips to ease ‘dog depression’ for back-to-school families. News release. Veterinary Emergency & Referral Group. August 15, 2022. Accessed August 15, 2022.