Episode 27 - Life Changes: Easing Your Dog into New Routines

Hello dog lovers, and welcome to the Muttz with Mannerz™ Canine Training Academy Podcast, where we’ll share dog training tips and educational information to help you raise your pup, young or old, so they can be a loving part of your family and your community for life. I’m your host, Corey McCusker, Canine Coach. And today I’m solo and I wanted to talk to you about life changes, mainly the changes that would occur when you maybe have taken the summer off. And everybody’s ready to go back to work or back to school in the fall. Because this can be a stressful time for your dog, and it could be stressful for you, too.

So as I said, it’s currently summer and if you’ve taken vacation, or you have the summer off, and you are home more often, but now everybody is starting to get ready to go back to school, or back to work, it’s a lot of hustle and bustle and things may be happening. And you have to think about how this will impact your dog. Because when you go back to school, routines will change, everything will change. Busier schedules and bustle begins and your dog is going to notice either the stress levels or the changes in the household routine. So they may be comfortable with you being home all summer and having fun. But that day will approach when the house is all of a sudden, very quiet for long periods of time. And this can be upsetting for many dogs. So I want to talk about how you can ease the transition to your new routines. And I’m going to go through a few tips that you can probably get started on right away and start incorporating them into your daily routine, so you can start preparing your pup with the new schedules that are going to take place when everybody goes back.

So the first thing I want to talk about is, dogs really do like structure, and familiarity. So if we start to look at our schedule, and start creating that schedule, and looking at responsibilities, and maybe we can get everybody involved in helping with the transition. So dogs do feel secure when they do have that familiar routine. And if we’re going to be changing the routine, we have to start implementing what the new routine may look like, and giving them time to learn about how things are going to change and getting them comfortable and reassuring our dog that everything is the normal routine. So this is going to be critical, especially if your dogs have been home with you during the day during the summer, and all of a sudden, they’re going to be alone for long periods of time.

So think about their bedtime routine, or your bedtime routine, when do you play with them, when are their walks going to take place, is there going to be an impact on their feeding routine, because maybe people have been sleeping in more and they get fed later but now we’re going to be getting up at the crack of dawn and getting ready. So think about those feeding routines and start those routines a couple of weeks ahead of when you go back to work or school. Also review who’s going to be responsible for what with your dog, as this may change with the new schedule, and it could be very critical to your dog’s well-being. So if there’s things that do have to be adjusted, and other family members have to take on certain things, because maybe the kids are getting home at a certain time if they’re old enough to be on their own, maybe they can help with the walks or the playtime or even the feeding. And everybody can get involved with that and almost kind of setup, Okay, who’s responsible for what?

Another thing that will be important, especially if your dog’s being left home alone longer during the day, it’s really important to provide exercise for your dog, particularly in the morning to burn off some of the energy. And I’m really big on exercising not only the physical side of the dog by taking them for a walk or a run or some play time, but also some mental exercise to drain that brain. Maybe playing some games with them, doing some enrichment activities, whether it’s a little bit of training, whether it’s a little bit of puzzle games, but making sure that you’ve given them that time and that exercise needed so that you can just drain some of that energy level especially if you have a younger dog.

You could also look at trying to get some people to help you. Maybe there’s a dog walker or somebody that could come in and walk your dog midday. We run a daycare so that can be an option too if your dog’s not going to be comfortable being at home alone. We also have introduced in our daycare, enrichment activities. So they will get their playtime but they also get those enrichment. So looking at a dog walker or quality daycare can always help.

Think about when you are leaving and returning for the day. So when you’re going off to work, or taking the kids to school, and then coming back. You want to make sure that you’re not making those departures dramatic for the dog. So keep it really low-key, keep it very natural, don’t make a big deal about it. Don’t be going, ‘Oh, it’s going to be okay, I’ll be back at five’. Your dog doesn’t know that. So the calmer your departures are, the better it will be. And also think about your stress levels, because the dogs can pick up on that very easily. So if you’re stressed or worried or anxious, it’s going to make them nervous and anxious too, because they do pick up on your actions.

If your dog does suffer from separation anxiety, which is something that can happen if we’ve been with our dogs long period of times, and then all of a sudden, we are removing ourselves, they may get more nervous. I’m not going to get too much into the separation anxiety, but I will provide a link in the show notes for some more information on that. We did an episode on that, I think Episode 3 on Separation Anxiety. So we’ll include that. So the more calm you are, the more you can get into your routines and get them accustomed to them before, to maybe start leaving them alone a little bit more in the few weeks before you’re going back to your regular work or school routines, will just help them get climatized.

The other thing you could do is if you are a parent that’s taking your kids to school, or bringing them you know, to the bus, include your dog. So if you walk or drive your children to and from the bus or school, bring your dog along. It’s a great time to walk them, it’s a family just going off together. So this will also help them adjust to seeing what’s happening and the kids going and then you’re bringing them back home. And your dog will learn to associate being with them on a walk or ride as a fun thing. This is also, as I said time that you can take that if you have time on the walk or the ride where you can disconnect. Knowing that they’ll come along to pick up the children later will give your dog something to look forward to in the day. So the more you can include the dog in that going and dropping the kids off, going and picking them up, even the walk or ride, just helps them become part of it. But also can tire them out a little bit too.

I talked about enrichment, and you know, engaging your dog, you can also get them a new toy. If you think about when kids go to school, they’re getting new outfit, new clothes, new shoes, all of that thing, why not get your dog something too. And it could be a new toy that entertains himself. I mean, there’s great toys out there, extra special safe chew toys or ones that you can stuff with tasty treats, that they can just entertain themselves if they are being on their own. And as I mentioned the puzzle toys that can encourage them to look for some hidden goodies.

And I think another thing I’d like to suggest is teaching them something new. So in the few weeks before the school or work schedules happen, just get them engaged in something new to entertain them, maybe teaching them a new trick, learning some new things. Because dogs do get bored and they can get lonely. So if you want to ramp things up, we always have training classes such as our agility, but there’s always something out there that you can teach them, something new and get them just again, you’re engaging their brain. Some people will actually play music when their dogs go. At the daycare, if it’s nap time, we may if we have a dog that might be a first-timer or just adjusting, or we have some dogs that are a little bit more anxious, we will actually play music, calming music and classical music is a great thing. So a lot of owners will have classical music playing at home. Some people will use lavender essence or a room spray. Make sure it’s not too close to your dog. But those are things that can help calm them too.

And I think it’s really important when the family is home, so if you ventured off to back to work or back to school, and then you come home, making sure that you’re spending quality time with your dog each day. So when you do come home, maybe taking them for a nice walk to the park or just when kids are doing homework, maybe the dogs after they’ve been walked can just relax with them and just making sure you’re giving them time. I know a lot of people that have kids, their kids get involved in sports so when they come home they might be rushing off to soccer or something to do. If you can take your dog to those activities, then that’s a great way to spend some more quality time with them.

Know, people will will ask me too, What are some signs that I can see if my dog struggling?  I think most people will know that. They’ll know the personalities of their dog. They’ll know if their dog’s personalities off a little bit or their behavior is off. And some of the following behaviors can occur when the family is away and your dog may start suffering, let’s say from you know, a depression or anxiety or frustration. So some of the things you might see, when your dog is struggling is there might be barking, whining, or crying, often in rhythmic or in repetitive intervals. The quality of the bark or the vocalization could be higher in pitch. So that’s one of the signs. Some may, if they are very nervous, and that they might have accidents, so urination or defecation. And that can also be a sign that your dog is suffering from some stress when they’re being left alone. If those are happening, I always say you know what, get a veterinarian to check your dog because you want to make sure that, one, if it isn’t stress related, if there’s a medical problem, then you definitely want to make sure you check something out with your dog.

If you are crate training your dog or if you’ve crated your dog, and you leave them in a crate, then – which is a safety zone. and we do recommend that if you’re not going to be supervising them – what can happen though if they are stressed and they’re not used to being crated, they can try to chew or break out of the crate. If you aren’t crating your dog (and this actually happened to me when I was rescuing Great Danes), they can chew on windows or door moldings. Or they might now I mean, if you left them in the backyard unsupervised, which I would highly suggest that you don’t do that, they might try to jump the fence. As I mentioned, I had the Great Danes, and they actually, now I had them on separate occasions, but both of them as I rescued them, did become very quickly attached to me. And when I did go back to work, they actually broke through the window. One actually chewed a whole door. So that was telling me that my dogs were extremely stressed and were suffering from separation anxiety. So chewing is a way that they can just, one, if they’re stressed, that’s the way they’re trying to release it or they’re just trying to break out, they’re trying to find you, whatever it may be. And let’s just hope that that doesn’t happen. Many people will come home and find their furniture, or shoes or items chewed up. And there’s where I highly recommend crate training. Because at least if they are crate-trained and they are comfortable in the crates, they know when they’re in their crates that it’s just going to be naptime and that the owners will come home. So we do recommend the crates because it does keep them safe. But again, that’s a process that you have to get them comfortable with prior to them just going in a crate, and they haven’t been in a crate all summer. And then they have to be locked up for the day. So very, it’s something that you would get them used to.

You might also, if you did come home to you know them being in the crate, they could be drooling, shaking, or if they’re not in the crate, pacing. So those are all signs that they might be experiencing separation anxiety. And that all may occur when we change our schedules.

So I can’t stress enough the importance of you getting your routine started prior to it actually coming full force for your dog. So the more you can prepare your dog and set in those familiar routines with them, the easier it’s going to be for them. And it’s going to be easier for you because you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that your dog is going to be okay when you go back to your work schedule and the kids go back to school.

So those are just some things I want to touch on. You may find that stress and anxiety are more pronounced for single dog families, and families that might have welcomed a new puppy into their family in the last few months. So I think the bottom line is that you really think about how you might feel in your dog’s situation and then find a way to ease it in for them. I mean, a lot of people will use, as I said, dog walkers, daycares, when they want to make sure, one, somebody’s able to go in halfway through the day, get them out for some exercise and for a potty break. Or if there are dogs that are really not comfortable being alone, the daycares are a good solution where they are able to be with people, be with other dogs and then they’re not stressing because they’re home alone.

So those are just some tips. I hope everyone is not going to be dealing with separation anxiety. But I really think it’s important that you think about what you need to do to prepare if your routine is going to change. And here I’m talking about just going back to school. You could also have a situation where you’ve been on vacation or you’re going on vacation and your dog’s whole schedule is going to change again. So I’m mainly touching on the back to school transition.

So thank you for those that are listening today. And I hope I’ve provided you with some tips to help that transition. And if you would like to learn more, please visit our website at, www.muttzwithmannerz.com, and check out our other blogs or podcasts and also check out the many training classes that we offer. If you have a topic you’d like to know more about and featured on a podcast, please email us at info@muttzwithmannerz.com. We’re here to enrich the lives at both ends of the leash and provide training and tips for you to have a well-mannered dog. So until next time, this is, Corey McCusker, Canine Coach and the founder of Muttz with Mannerz™ Canine Training Academy, and we are here to help. Have a great day everyone.


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