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As the dog days of summer draw to a close, you may find yourself dreaming about the lazy pace of the season just past. And dogs, too, might be pining for recent days gone by.
Loss of appetite, separation anxiety, night pacing, digging, barking, chewing, and even depression are all symptoms that tell you something might be wrong with your dog. If the stressed-out behavior coincides with the end of the season and is uncharacteristic of your otherwise well-behaved dog (and your veterinarian has ruled out any underlying physical problem), it’s time to consider that the culprit might just be the end-of-summer blues.
Fortunately, soothing a stressed dog doesn’t have to be difficult at all. In fact, you just have to use the acronym BLUES. Here’s how:
1. B: Be Aware of Relationships
Be aware of the close relationships the dog has formed over the past weeks. If they happen to be with a family member who is visiting or who is planning to move out (such as a child who’s heading off to college), try fostering new bonds with a family member who will continue to live in the house full-time. Assigning a new roommate before the dog loses their old one will help to avoid stressful sleeping situations.
2. L: Leadership in the Whole Family
Leadership gives a dog something to rely on when routines and household members change. Let everyone in the house have a turn at feeding time. Ask your dog to sit and give the meal as a reward for following the command.
Teaching your dog to obey basic obedience commands from everyone in the house will get them used to working for more than one person and polish their skills. Once the dog learns to work for the entire family, seasonal household changes will have a less stressful effect on the dog because their job description stays the same.
3. U: Use Familiar Objects
Use familiar objects to keep your dog company at night and when alone during the day. You may also try calming products like soothing treats or supplements, canine anxiety vests, calming collars, and calming sprays, or comforting items like dog blankets and favorite dog toys. Dogs also search for their people in the objects that smell most like us, so if you prize your remote control or plan on keeping your new comforter, a smelly, old T-shirt will do the job just fine.
4. E: Ease Into New Routines
Ease the dog slowly into new routines. If the family member who walks the dog or sleeps with them will soon be spending less time at home, give the task of walking and the joy of sleeping with the dog to someone who will be more consistently present. Do this a week or two before the routine has to change, to avoid any sudden shifts.
By the same token, if your house will soon be an empty nest as your kids go away to school, gradually begin leaving the dog alone (an hour or two at a time), setting the stage for the soon-to-be quiet house.
5. S: Stimulate Your Dog With Exercise
Stimulate the dog’s body and mind with consistent exercise. No matter what the season, exercise can be the key to solving a lot of canine behavior issues. Rain or shine, warm weather or cold, daily, physical exercise is a must.
And, because doggy boredom can foster a list of undesirable behaviors (like digging, chewing, barking, and jumping), stimulating your dog’s mind is equally important as stimulating their body. Indoor games of fetch and drilling basic obedience commands will help keep your dog’s mind as well as their body from wandering off-limits.
After having spent a lot of time with loved ones, even the best-trained dogs have been known to chew a rug or two when they’re left on their own. And it’s understandable that even the most reliably housebroken dog might mark a spot in a loved one’s room. Even the most laid-back dog exhibits signs of separation anxiety after having spent time with their owners. But taking the time to ease them out of the dog days of summer can help you avoid the hours of stress that come with the changes of any season.