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5 Back-to-School Tips for Dog Owners

School is back in session, "normal life" is resuming, and the result is that many of our furry friends are getting less activity during the week. The transition from summer into fall can be a tough one for some pets, who have gotten used to seeing their people during the day. Here are five tips for helping your pooch adjust to the new rhythm of your household.

1. Reinstate boundaries.

Bring that dog crate back out, put the baby gates up, and make sure your dog has a "safe place" to spend the day while you are away. When you leave the house, put him in his safe place, and give him a safe toy to keep busy with - a frozen peanut butter stuffed Kong toy works great, but many dogs also love their Nylabones or puzzle toys. This will prevent your bored pup from creating his own "entertainment" - at the expense of your furniture!

2. Stick to the schedule.

Do your best to keep a consistent daily schedule to help your dog adjust more quickly to the new routine. Dogs derive comfort from regular routines, so the more consistent you are, the better your dog will feel about the change.

3. Keep it low-key.

Sometimes, in an effort to "comfort" our dogs or reassure them that we will be back soon, we unwittingly create some separation anxiety. Dogs are great barometers of our emotions, so if you are feeling guilty or upset, your pup will feed off those emotions! Instead, keep your morning good-bye ritual low key and neutral. Stick with a jolly "kennel up", followed by a extra yummy treat and safe toy in the crate, then off you go.

4. Provide an outlet.

Now that your pup is more restricted during the day, you will need to find a way to help burn off energy in a more structured way. Institute a daily walk or dedicate a minimum of 30 minutes to interactive play time to help Fido blow off steam.

5. Watch for changes in health.

As we move into the fall and winter months, it is easy to forget that our pup isn't as active as he was during the summer, and likely doesn't need quite as much food as he did when he was more active. Keep a close eye on Fido's weight to ward off those extra pounds - getting weight back off a dog can be very tough! Also, make sure you are measuring out food portions and physically watching your dog eliminate at least once a day. Changes in eating and bathroom habits are frequently the first sign that your pooch isn't feeling well! Accidents in the house are unlikely to be "retribution" for leaving him home, but are more likely to be a sign of a urinary tract infection or stress-induced over-drinking!

Follow these few tips, and your pooch will transition easily into your new schedule. And, as always, if a problematic behavior emerges, check with your vet for any possible medical issues that may be contributing. Once medical issues are addressed, behavior modification can help redirect those challenging behaviors.

Happy training!

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