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Helping Dogs Transition During Back to School Time

Getting the pets ready for a schedule shift.

The other night my son waltzed into the kitchen wanting to help with something. In his 4-year-old mind, he is all-knowing and rather resourceful.

He magnetized to Dad’s task of slicing the freshly baked bread. We both shouted as his hand extended for the newly sharpened blade; and the next sound was one of fear crashing against her inspired determination. 

We try not to yell in our house, unless in cases of utter urgency. I scooped him up, rocked him as he fussed and sat with him until his sharp wit was fully intact, at which point he told me that the thing that would really make him feel better would be 15 minutes on the iPad. Nice try, my clever one.

Dog connection, you query? There always is one, and this week it points to the fact that dogs, like children should be treated respectfully and only admonished in cases of dire consequence. In my experience, people yell too often at their dogs and especially in the case of a young puppy, the result is a numbing effect to human reprimands. 

A further connection formed in my mind as this is “Back to School Week’” for families with young children. A transformative time for all and no less for the dog or puppy who has enjoyed a looser schedule and the calming effects of outdoor activities. 

This is the week where isolation spikes, the anxiety of punctuated schedule sends everyone into a tizzy, and the dogs are often reprimanded for what could easily be deduced as their own cries for attention. Keeping these thoughts in mind, if you’re raising dogs and children together and find yourself in this boat:

  • Don’t forget to feed your dog and to check their water bowl. If your child has been mindful of this task over the summer, do not blame them should they forget: they're just puppies themselves and the stress of the season is enough for them to bare; 
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise. A tired dog is a happy family. As silly as it sounds, even leash walking your dog around the house as you rouse your family and do your morning tasks can exhaust them. Not only are your focusing their attention, but you can use the time to teach them useful directions like upstairs and the names of your children. “Let’s Go Wake JULIA”;
  • Creative Isolation. When you leave the house prepare an area in advance that is protected from temptations. If your dog has been accustomed to the crating, reintroduce it if you’re concerned for his anxiety level. A crate is not a dungeon; consider it (dare I say decorate it) like a cozy bedroom.  Otherwise block off a familiar room or use a fold out pen (available through pet stores) to enclose your dog while you are out. If your dog can pace he’s more likely to work himself into a frenzy looking for you. A dog’s outlet for frustration do not include overeating or vegging in front of a television: a dog is more likely to bark, chew or eliminate;
  • And if you do come home to destruction, please try to view it as a sign of utter desolation and not as some very un-canine impulse such as spite.  Yelling at a dog after a behavior would be like my yelling at my daughter after she sliced her hand open with a knife; or if it were a cookie she was reaching for in the above example, shouting at her for eating it. Who would look like the fool then?
Michael Woyton August 27, 2012 at 03:28 AM
"A tired dog is a happy family." So true. I took my Kate to the dog park in Manhattan at least 2 times a day, sometimes 3 times. One of the less knowledgeable owners said I was exercising her TOO much. Well, duh.
NAO August 27, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Agreed. Also a tired dog is a dog that is less likely to get into trouble.
Lisa Buchman August 28, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Thanks Peggy, we've fixed the copy. Every day I am grateful for my neighbors who bring their dogs over to tire my dog out!
Will McAvoy August 28, 2012 at 02:33 PM
I think if dogs could read they would think we're all crazy.
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