By Cathy Brooks
The fall season has arrived. The kids have been out of school enjoying water parks, camp and all sorts of fun activities. Even adult work schedules shift into a slower paced rhythm—fewer deadlines and meandering lunches sprinkled liberally with long weekends and vacation days. There are hikes, picnics, barbecues and pool parties. There is sleeping in, afternoon naps and days without alarm clocks. If a dog (or dogs) is part of the family, they have enjoyed being part of “the dog days of summer.”
Then, it’s all over.
The days grow shorter. There’s a steady stream of television commercials touting back-to-school sales mixed with pre-season promos for football. It changes from sunshine yellow and frolicking in pools to earth-toned hues and falling leaves.
People know it’s coming. Dogs don’t understand why activities have changed.
Humans understand the concept that summer is for fun and when fall comes around, it’s time to get back on track and get things done. It may be done grudgingly, but people adjust from summertime activities back to the grind of school and work when the season comes around.
Dogs do not understand. All they know is that days filled with more time with their humans have come to a screeching halt. Now they’re left on their own with no one to play with them during the day and the flow of rich stimulation cut off.
Some dogs, frustrated by the change and lacking appropriate outlets for their energy, may become disruptive. This can manifest in something as simple as excessive barking or whining when left alone, or it can range up the scale to destructive behaviors like emptying trashcans, marking in the house or worse.
It is not uncommon for dogs to begin acting out when there are tectonic shifts in a household such as moves, renovations and houseguests. People generally understand that major life changes can be disruptive to pets, and can plan for it. When it comes to changes from season to season, such considerations rarely get made.
Set a schedule and keep it
Whether it’s school year or summertime, dogs need consistent schedules. Maintaining a basic schedule year-round for feeding and basic walks—a schedule that is kept regardless of vacations or human schedule changes—can go a long way to helping a dog maintain balanced behavior year-round.
Continue the dog’s social setting
Regardless of a dog’s age, mental stimulation is a critical factor for a dog to be behaviorally stable. Some dogs are suited well with individual dog walkers. Other dogs thrive in settings where they are grouped by size/breed. While many can get along with in a mixed setting with all sorts of dogs, it’s not uncommon during the school year to have a dog in daycare. Don’t pull the plug during summer months. Cut back on hours/days but keep some consistency.
If your dog starts acting out, remember that it is not their fault. Think of your dog like a toddler whose world has been turned upside down. What does that child do? Act out. If your dog appears to be regressing in its training, take a good look at what is happening and take the necessary steps.
The fall season can be a wonderful time and, with consideration, dogs can continue to thrive with their families.
Cathy Brooks is the owner and operator of The Hydrant Club, a canine social club and training academy located in downtown Las Vegas. Brooks, a former journalist, writes about dogs, leads seminars and classes teaching everything from behavioral modification to hands-on obedience training.