Summer's over sad dogThis week is back to school week for many in the UK. So time to answer the following three questions about your dog/child.

  • Is your dog/child sad?
  • Is your dog/child sleeping more?
  • Is your dog/child destroying things through chewing?

So the last one is more likely to be your faithful friend rather than your offspring – unless you include fingernails and pen tops. In both instances it could be a case of separation anxiety. Young children particularly and dogs welcome the security and routine of home as they automatically know where they are and what is likely to happen next. Take that away and the animal response of flight or fight may kick in to deal with the uncertainty. Usually the anxiety is mild and easily overcome.

Dealing with Separation Anxiety

We’re going to focus more on the dogs than the children but often the solutions cross over. For example your dog may miss having the kids around all day as they have done through the holidays.

So there’s an opportunity to give your kids more responsibility. Tell them that Fido is a bit sad as he misses them during the day so when you/child comes in create a new routine of active play between dog and child.
Similarly if they have homework or music practice, make them the same time each night while the pet sits quietly with them. This may not work with young violinists!

Avoid long sad goodbyes as this reinforces the fear. Make sure that the goodbye is always upbeat and brief. Like the first day in reception it is always better to be positive and cheery despite what your heart is saying, and then cry out of sight of the child/dog.

You may also need to desensitise the triggers of picking up keys or schoolbags by doing it at various times during the day. Here training for the pet may be opposite to that for the child to make sure they make it to school on time!

Activity also heals

A bored dog can be a chewing dog. If children and parents are both now away, boredom may set in to be resolved by chewing items never previously considered by your friend.

Smart toys might be one solution; increased activity might be another. Replace the car and walk to school with your dog and children. And after you’ve dropped them off go and have shared adventures as part of your time or fitness regime.

Just don’t get into the habit of insisting that your dog needs to go everywhere with you as that would be a clear case of separation anxiety in you!