While dogs naturally sleep a lot during the day, when they wake up, they want something to do. Provide toys and activities that can keep your dog entertained, even when you're not at home. Some examples are:
- Scatter food - Dogs are natural foragers who enjoy sniffing out food on the ground. Before you leave the house, scatter some dog kibble around the house. Hide a few special treats, too, so your dog spends extra time looking for them. Always provide fresh, clean water to keep your dog well hydrated.
- Toys - Dogs love toys. Buy high-quality, virtually indestructible puzzle toys that hold treats like the KONG™ and Buster Cube™. Rotate the toys weekly or daily to give your dog something new and interesting.
- Start early - A few weeks before the kids go back to school, get your dog used to being alone. For example, if you frequently take your dog with you to run errands, leave him at home instead.
- Pay less attention to your dog - About a week before school starts, pay increasingly less attention to your dog each day so it won't be a total shock when there is no one there to pay attention to him at all.
- Practice leaving the house - Go through the motions of leaving the house. Pick up your keys and go out the door, but then come right back in again. By removing the triggers that he associates with your leaving, you will help your dog him be more relaxed when you actually do go.
- When you leave - Don't soothe your dog by saying things like "Be a good boy, Max. I'll be home soon. I love you." Your sweet-toned voice might make him think it's okay to feel anxious. As difficult as it is to do, ignore your dog for 10-15 minutes before you leave.
Dogs need a safe place when left alone. Often, having the full run of the house makes them feel restless and unsettled. If your dog likes his crate, by all means, keep him in the crate while you are away. However, if your dog hasn't been crate trained, don't start training him the day the kids leave for school. That's too late and can actually add to his stress. Also, ask a friend or hire a pet sitter to come by to let your adult dog out to toilet if you are going to be away longer than 8 hours.
If your dog will be inside all day and is not housebroken or tends to chew inappropriate items, consider confining him to a small room, such as laundry or mud room, using a baby gate.
Be aware that a child coming home from school may be greeted by an over-excited dog. After being left alone all day, the dog has pent-up energy. When he sees the kids, his excitement might cause him to become too exuberant.
- Train the kids - to avoid going right to the dog's area as soon as they get home. Kids should ignore the pet for several minutes to allow him to settle down. With young children, it is always safest to have a parent present to reduce the chance of a problem.
- Train your dog - to understand what is acceptable and what is not. Have your dog Sit quietly to be greeted when anyone comes home. You will be rewarded with a more relaxed dog that is happy to see you and be reunited with his family.