Dog Dad Zack Manko and his dog Sorcha give insight and advice to the separation anxiety that arises in our pets when kids go back to school (or we return to an office)!
They say, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” They also say that “man is always a student.” I’d like to know why “they” think humans are more likely than dogs to keep learning, especially as we get older. Sorsha barks in agreement, casting canine aspersions on those that would so calumniate her and all of dogkind.
Curmudgeonly griping aside, August is a great month to start thinking about trying new things, taking a class, or learning something new. Exempli gratia: I have been rocking a word-of-the-day calendar, and just love inserting my newfound vocabulary wherever I can (maybe even in this blog). I know next month is “back to school month,” but, trust us, there are plenty of reasons to start now!
So don’t hesitate, procrastinate, or vacillate. Now is the time, and this post is all about gearing up and getting you (and your furry companion) ready to flex that gray matter!
Back To School Savings
One major reason to start your new scholastic or self-taught adventures now is that while September is when school starts, August is when back to school salesstart. Now is the time to get your hands on notebooks, pencils, and backpacks, sure, but also time to stock up for your new endeavors.
For example, are you interested in learning a new game with your pet? Many stores are running specials on all sorts of animal equipment as they switch out their summer inventory for new fall offerings. You’re likely to find deals at pet stores, retailers, and other services like kennels or doggy daycares.
It’s been a while since Sorsha took a psychology course, so she’s a bit fuzzy about Pavlov, bells, and dog food. What she’s not fuzzy about is that positive reinforcement works when it comes to teaching your canine companion some new commands. Side note: The American Kennel Club agrees, suggesting to focus on positive reinforcement when using operant conditioning when training your dog.
With that in mind, Pet Perennials has you covered with some great deals on dog treats and other goodies. Check out our peanut butter dog treats, or go a bit grander with a specially designed peanut butter dog cake! Both of these items are on sale (at least while this blog was new!) so make a move now if you want great-tasting training aids for your hound.
School Out Separation Anxiety
Speaking of rewarding, there has been a recent uptick in the number of dog owners, due to the surge in pet purchases during the pandemic. Many of these are first-time owners, and they are now facing a first-time problem: what do they do with their pets when they have to go back to the office?
With conditions around the country returning to normal, many people are no longer telecommuting or working from home, which means their furry companions, used to having their owners around, are faced with being alone for the first time. This can be a source of concern, as some dogs may act out when left alone, tearing up shoes, making a mess on the floors, or doing some unauthorized shopping online (that’s right, I blame Sorsha for those suspicious credit card charges). Separation anxiety can be frustrating for pet owners, but it is also quite tough on the pets themselves.
In any case, if you find yourself in this type of situation (or just think your canine companion could start tightening things up), consider doing some basic obedience training with them. Dog training is not all about discipline, either. It can impart all sorts of benefits to you and your pets.
For example, training routines typically exercise both the dog's mind and body, so your pet will be getting in a full workout. This can keep them fit and mentally sharp, even as they enter old age. Additionally, it provides an opportunity for pets and owners to spend some quality time together, strengthening their bonds and having some fun.
If you are addressing separation anxiety in your dog, one of the best places to start is teaching them to ignore cues that you are leaving, like putting on your jacket or grabbing your keys. You can condition them to ignore cues by performing the cue and then notleaving. For example, you could grab your keys, jacket, or wallet, then sit down on the couch and watch some TV. Eventually, your dog will stop associating the cue with you leaving.
Another tactic is the stay game, where you train your dog to sit and stay in a location while you do other things. Gradually you make the dog wait for longer periods of time or you move a further distance away from it. This will help them become comfortable with you being out of their sight.
Also, remember to keep it calm. If you get super crazy with high-pitched squeals when saying goodbye to your pooch, you’re doing it wrong. This type of behavior gets the dog in an emotionally alert state, and then they have no way to get out of it when you leave except by acting out. You are basically hyping them up and then disappearing on them. Some warm parting words and a pat on the head is a much more appropriate choice of farewell.
Learning is Fun
Now, just because we’re talking about books and school doesn’t mean we’re suggesting you head back to the classroom. Far from it! Starting a new activity or teaching your dog new behaviors is something you can do at the park, the front yard, or right in the living room!
Keep it fun and remember to have some treats on hand for positive reinforcement. Make a game out of it. Involve the kids. No matter how you learn, keep it fun!
School’s In for Summer
August may be the last month for summer vacation, but trust us, it is the best month to start thinking about and planning to do something new. So, whether you’re a freshman or lifelong scholar, it’s never too late for you (or your dog) to start something new.