During the summer, your schedule may have been a little more relaxed or you may have adopted a new dog because you and your family had some extra time to spend with bonding and training. Now that school is starting and classes will soon be back in session, how should you go about preparing your dog for this new routine?
If your dog has only been alone for short periods of time and now everyone is going to be gone for 8-10 hours a day several days a week, that can be a big blow to your dog because things have changed drastically.
You can prepare him for being alone for long periods so that he doesn't develop separation anxiety or doesn't get bored - and finds things to do such as barking incessantly or tearing your house up or both.
Start now and go slowly. Cut down on the attention and interaction with your dog during the day. If you feel guilty because everyone's leaving and try to compensate by giving him more attention while you all are home, it may make things worse because the gap between when you're home and when you're gone is greater than before. That's why starting now is important.
Increase your training sessions. Not only will your dog be better behaved, but you will put yourself in a leadership position - and your dog understands that leaders have the privilege of coming and going as they please.
Develop a new routine where you are gone several times a day for long periods of time. Don't leave him for hours at a time at the beginning. Try 15 minutes. If he's okay with that, then increase the time by 5-10 minutes each time you leave.
Does he have someplace that he feels secure, such as a crate or even underneath a table? Leave him in his secure spot with a long-lasting treat to keep him occupied. That's the only time he will get that special treat. Take the treat away as soon as you return. My dogs get frozen raw treats and they can't wait for me to leave - they even run to their crates when they see me getting ready. Honest!
Play fetch or take him for a lllooonnnggg walk or run. You want to get him tired before you leave so he will sleep while you are gone. Behaviorally healthy dogs sleep up to 20 hours per day.
Be matter of fact and don't make a big fuss over him when you leave. Say, "I'll be back" rather than, "Oh, Snookums. Mommy's soooo sorry everyone is going to be gone all day. You know we love you, yada, yada, yada."
Leave the radio or TV on while you are gone. It's white noise for your dog, but it also masks sounds from outdoors that he may otherwise bark at and become overstimulated.
If he's having issues when you leave despite all this preparation or if you can't leave him alone even when you throw out the garbage or get the mail, he needs a behavior modification program from an animal behavior consultant. He also may have an underlying medical issue and/or may need behavior medications as well. If this is the case, isn't it better to find out now when you have time to take care of him rather than discover it when everyone's routines are changing? Preparation is the key. Please start now.