Right now, millions across the country are transitioning from summer freedom to a hectic school year schedule that can be a tough on kids, parents and man's best friend. This is especially true for owners of newly adopted and/or young dogs that do best with moderate exercise and supervision. Have no fear though; your couch and sanity can be saved by implementing common-sense training, enrichment and smart management strategies suggested by Wagfield Academy's (the newest online training academy) Lisa Gunter, Co-founder & Head of Training:
A Tired Dog Is A Good Thing: While pups that suffer with behavioral issues are not cured by exercise alone, it can be helpful in reducing anxiety, boredom and create a mellower home environment. So when coming up with a plan for the new school year, take a look at the daily exercise you were providing your dog over the summer. Did he/she receive one to two hours of play a day? Did he/she go on a hike a few times a week?
Use Time Effectively with Exercise: Calculate how many hours of exercise he was receiving a day and figure out how you'll provide a similar amount with your new schedules. When I talk with working families that own new and/or young dogs, it requires honesty about what they can really give to their canine buddy and creativity about using their time effectively.
Being Consistent: Whatever schedule you do decide on, keep it consistent! This is especially important if you work during the day, your young dog will need to get out for about an hour of exercise before you leave. If you have access to a safe open space or dog park, allow your dog the opportunity for high cardio play (i.e. - exploring or running at top speed). This is more bang for your buck than leashed neighborhood walks. If you can meet up with some doggie friends in the neighborhood, even better!
Give Your Dog A Chore: When you do leave your dog alone, give him an appropriate job to do. For example, consider using food-dispensing toys like the Kibble Nibble or Canine Genius to get more mental fun out of mealtimes. If your dog cannot have full house access while unsupervised, use an exercise pen to confine him in a dog-proofed area along with his food-dispensing toy, water and other activities like toys and chews.
Crate Train Before Using Crate: If you want to use a crate, he must be crate trained ahead of time before leaving him alone. Remember, your dog should not be left in the crate for longer than six to eight hours a day. If you work long hours and your pup will need potty breaks, consider coming home on your lunch break as your dog makes the transition. Have a friend or neighbor check in on your dog to let him out to run around your backyard.
Dog Walker or Doggie Daycare-Get References: If you need exercise and enrichment support, use a qualified dog walker or doggie daycare. Whatever service you decide to use, get references and stop in to see how they care for their animals before you sign up.
It's All About The Training: Along with all this change in your dog's life, consider enrolling him in a training course to provide a bit of structure and enrichment. Plus, it's a great opportunity to spend time together learning new tricks — even if it's just for a few minutes a day.
Transitioning to the school year schedule can be challenging with new, young and even older dogs, but with an eye on meeting their exercise, enrichment and companionship needs, we can all be off to a good start this school year with a wag of our tails.