• 73°

When kids go back to school, dogs may go back to bad behaviors

By HELEN PALMER

K9 Corner

Summer is over and all of a sudden, I am getting calls asking why the dogs are chewing, or digging or regressing into un-housebroken puppies. Why? The most logical answer is that school is in session and the dog, who has probably spent a number of hours each day playing with the children for the past three months, suddenly finds itself alone — for hours at a time.

Dogs are classified as living in packs. The pack can be strictly canine, such as a beagle pack, or it can be part of the human family. Whichever it is, there has to be a leader and if there is no leader, the dog will try to assume leadership. That is why obedience training is important. It teaches the dog its relationship to family members, and being adaptable, the dog is usually satisfied with being a “follower.”

I visited a home not too long ago and met a very nice family pet who was very comfortable with his surroundings at the time because the children had returned from school. With exuberant energy, the dog played with his toys for a few minutes before checking each one of us out, then returning to his toys. I snapped a leash on him and he willingly heeled, sat, and laid down on command (with the help of a treat). Was this the same dog the mother complained was chewing and digging?

Yes, it was. My suggestions started with exercise before the family departed in the morning. Since there are several children, I mentioned a fast game of ball with the family members taking turns, or an energetic walk.

The object is to tire the dog sufficiently that he will be ready to nap the rest of the morning. I always hope that at least one family member works close enough to the house that the dog will have a break in its solitary confinement and also have an opportunity to relieve itself — if it is confined indoors. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. Sending the dog to doggie daycare or having someone come to the house to walk the dog are other options.

Other methods of eliminating anxiety include leaving the dog for very short periods of time and gradually increasing the time as the dog adjusts. Leaving three chew toys for those that chew and alternating the toys every day or two helps alleviate boredom.

Providing the dog with its own bed and placing it in an area familiar to the dog (my dog has a bed in the kitchen and another one in my bedroom) will start to wean it away from the dependency of sleeping with a family member. If your dog is an attention-seeker, make it work for your attention. Make him sit or down before you pet him.

If the animal is extremely distressed when you leave, (I’ve seen unbelievable destruction by a frightened dog), you might consider using a calming spray or asking your veterinarian’s opinion about using a sedative to start the training and then taper off the medicine as the dog adjusts.