Back to school: how to help your dog adjust

Your dog might not be the one going back to school this fall, but your family’s shifting schedule is sure to effect him! Here’s how to help him adjust.

Fall is just around the corner, and the kids are going back to school! You and your family enjoyed a fun-filled summer with the dog – playing, training, and cuddling. But now your dog will be home alone for a big chunk of the day, something he hasn’t done since June. This change can be stressful on some dogs, so it’s important to help him adjust to your new routine. Follow these steps for success:

1. Spend time with him in the morning

Getting the kids ready for school – and yourself ready for work – can be hectic. But it’s important to set some time aside each morning to spend with your dog. A short walk, a game of fetch, or a quick training session is an ideal way to tire him out before you leave for the day. He’ll feel content and satisfied, and ready to take a nap!

2. Take your dog with you when you drop off the kids

If your dog is social and enjoys car rides, take him along with you when you drop the kids off at school! Better yet, if you accompany your kids to the bus stop, bring your pup along for the walk. This is a great way to enjoy a short family adventure before everyone leaves for the day.

3. Hire help

If no one will be home until late afternoon or dinnertime, it’s a great idea to hire a dog walker. By providing your dog with a midday potty break, some exercise, and basic social interaction, he’ll be much happier, and more settled in the evening when the family is back together.

Is he having a hard time coping with your new schedule? Seek the help of a qualified behavior specialist. Too much time alone can lead to separation anxiety and other serious behavioral issues that are better addressed sooner rather than later.

4. Get him involved in the kids’ homework

They might not be able to add or subtract, but dogs can help kids learn to read! Their presence encourages children to read aloud without the pressure of being critiqued by an adult. In fact, according to educator Dr. Lori Friesen, author of How Your Dog Can Help your Child, Read, Lead and Succeed, animals can assist kids in “a number of areas such as communication, self confidence, risk taking, creativity, playfulness, motivation, unconditional acceptance, companionship and individual learning.” As a bonus, including your dog in this activity will help him feel included in the new routine.

5. Make him a priority

With school schedules, homework, extracurricular activities, and preparing dinner, time and energy can run short. If your family uses a daily planner, make sure to include specific time to spend with your dog. By scheduling time for him in writing, you keep Fido from getting lost in the daily shuffle.

It’s important to remember that your dog is home alone all day waiting for you and your family’s attention. Make sure you take a break from the daily grind to enjoy your dog. After all, that is why you adopted him in the first place!


Tonya Wilhelm is a dog training and cat care specialist who has traveled the US promoting positive ways of preventing and managing behavior issues with a holistic approach. Named one of the top ten dog trainers in the US, she has helped thousands build happy relationships with their dogs with humane, positive training methods. She wrote Proactive Puppy Care, and other books. Tonya offers group and private dog training classes, provides training and behavior services via phone and online, and does workshops at pet expos (