Family members look forward to September and “back to school” days with widely divergent emotions. Some kids would like the freedom of summer to last forever. Others look forward to the return to football, social activities, even studying. Parents tend to breathe a sigh of relief in the fall as a relative calm settles over the household. But what about Duke, Buddy, and Muffy?
September can be confusing for dogs who have grown accustomed to the constant attention of human friends over the summer. This is an especially difficult time for puppies, acquired in June, who have never been left alone for as many as eight to 10 hours a day. Suddenly the pup is abandoned by the pack, and an animal who would rarely be alone for long periods in his natural environment is left to his own devices for several hours at a time. Small wonder that this is the time when housetraining commonly breaks down, destructive behavior erupts, human tempers flare, and dogs are either banished to backyard isolation, returned to breeders, or dumped at animal shelters.
Dog trainers speak of “managing” behavior to prevent behavior problems. In addition to providing a safe, appropriate environment for your dog (see “In The Doghouse, page 18 of this issue) and gradually acclimating your dog or puppy to being left alone, you can chase away your dog’s abandonment blues and keep him occupied during his long hours alone by giving him entertaining, well-constructed toys. Of particular value are toys that immediately engage the dog and keep him busy for at least 20-30 minutes after the owner’s departure, since the majority of destructive separation anxiety behavior occurs during that period.
WDJ evaluated several canine toys and chew items from the “back-to-school” perspective. Our primary criteria for endorsement were safety, durability, attractiveness to the dog and ability to attract and hold his attention.
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-By Pat Miller
Author Pat Miller, a dog trainer and freelance writer from Salinas, CA, regularly reviews products for WDJ.