As the dog days of summer draw to a close and you find yourself dreaming about the lazy pace of the season just past, you need only look down at your dog to see that he too might be pining for the recent days gone by.
Loss of appetite, separation anxiety, night pacing, digging, barking, chewing, even depression, are all red flags that tell you something might possibly be wrong with your dog. But, if the 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, fixing it doesn’t have to be difficult at all. In fact, you just have to use the BLUES. Here’s how:
Be aware of the close relationships the dog has formed over the past free-wheeling 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 fulltime. Assigning a new roommate before the dog loses his old one will help to avoid stressful sleeping situations.
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 him accustomed to working for more than one boss while polishing his skills at the same time. Once the dog learns to work for the entire family, seasonal household changes will have a less stressful effect on the dog because his job description stays the same.
Use familiar objects to keep the dog company at night and when alone during the day. If the dog has an item of clothing or a bed linen that smells like you or a favorite family member when he is left alone, the closeness of the familial scent will help him feel less lonely. 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.
Ease the dog slowly into new routines. If the family member who walks the dog or sleeps with him 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, in order to avoid any sudden change. 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.
Stimulate the dog’s body and mind with consistent exercise. No matter what the season, exercise can be the key to solving a plethora of canine behavior issues. Rain or shine, warm weather or cold, daily, physical exercise is a must. And, because boredom can foster a list of undesirable behaviors (like digging, chewing, barking, and jumping), stimulating your dog’s mind is equally important as stimulating his body. Indoor games of fetch and drilling basic obedience commands will help keep your dog’s mind as well as his body from wandering off limits.
It’s only natural, after having spent endless days and nights with loved ones-only to be left to their own devices for hours on end-that even the best-trained dogs have been known to chew a rug or two. And it’s understandable that even the most reliably housebroken dog might mark” a spot in a loved one’s room. What’s more, it shouldn’t surprise you that even the most laid-back dog exhibits the signs of separation anxiety after having spent a few action-packed, fun-filled weeks with you and the kids. But taking the time to ease him out of the dog days of summer will not only help you to avoid the hours of stress that come with the changes of any season, it might also even teach your dog not to sing the B-L-U-E-S at all.