How to Prepare Your Dog for Back-to-School Season

| Richard Rowlands

Adjusting to back-to-school schedules could be hard for your dog. Here are 9 ways to transition your pup to the new schedule without added tension.


As summer comes to a close and the children go back to school, your dog's daily routine is likely to change. Instead of spending their days enjoying long walks and playtime outside with the kids, your pup will need to adjust to less activity and more alone time.

Without preparation, this adjustment can be overwhelming and frustrating for your furry friend. But with a little planning, you can help make the transition smoother for the whole family. Here are 9 tips to help your dog prepare for back-to-school season.

1. Adjust Your Dog to the New Routine Early

Your dog's routine helps them feel secure and confident every day, but back-to-school season is all about establishing a new routine.

Just like with children, you want to ease your dog into this new routine to make adjusting easier. So, start making changes early, well before school starts.

Your dog's new routine may include early bedtimes, changes to their morning mealtimes, or changes to their daily walk times. Scale these times back in increments as you get closer to the first day of school.

2. Start Your Dog's Mornings with Exercise

During the school year, days can be hectic and packed with activities – from grocery shopping to soccer practice. Without enough exercise, your dog may spend their days bored, anxious, or hyperactive.

To make sure your dog gets enough exercise, build time into the morning for a long walk or playtime in the backyard. Starting your dog's day with exercise will help them feel more content during the day, especially if they're home alone.

3. Keep the New Routine Drama-Free

Dogs are great at picking up on the way their owners are feeling, and they'll mirror those feelings back to you. So, the best way to keep your dog calm with new changes is to stay calm yourself.

Mornings can be hectic as you try to get the kids ready for school and out the door, but try to keep the atmosphere as calm as possible.

It's also tempting to make a big deal of saying goodbye to your dog when you leave, telling them you love them, or otherwise showing them affection. But this can actually increase your dog's stress level because it draws attention to this moment of the routine.

When you leave the house, avoid making a fuss and calmly walk out the door. Your dog will then learn that there's nothing to worry about and they won't be anxious when you leave.

The same is true for when you come home. Instead of smothering your dog in kisses, come inside the home calmly, then ask your children to put their backpacks down and start their after-school routines. Then, after a few minutes of settling in, say hello to your dog.

4. Give Your Dog Enrichment During the Day

While exercise is important, you can also supplement that exercise with mental enrichment to keep your dog busy and happy during the day.

Prepare a few puzzle toys like Kongs by stuffing them with healthy, tasty snacks like bananas, xylitol-free peanut butter, pumpkin, or carrots. You can freeze them ahead of time for an added challenge and to help them last even longer.

Try using one puzzle toy as a distraction while you get the kids out the door, and leave other puzzle toys scattered around the house for your dog to find throughout the day.

5. Dedicate Time to Play in the Afternoon

While it's tempting to just relax on the couch after a long day of work and school pickup, making time to play with your dog will help them wind down for the night and sleep better.

Dedicating time to play with your pup after you've been gone for the day also gives you time to continue strengthening your bond with your four-legged friend. Your pup will love spending some extra time with you and you'll end the day feeling good too.

6. Bring Your Dog Along for School Drop-Off

If your dog enjoys car rides, bringing them along for school drop-off can be a fun way to include them in the morning routine. Many pups get attached to children during the summer since they can play and spend unlimited time with them, so back-to-school season can be a sad adjustment.

Including your dog on the ride to school can help your pup associate your children leaving with something that your dog enjoys, making the adjustment easier.

7. Leave Your Dog with Your Child's Scent

If including your dog in the drop-off routine isn't practical for you, leaving them with your child's scent is another great way to help ease the stress of the transition.

Leave a blanket or a frequently used shirt in the kennel with your pup or in the areas where they usually relax. Having the familiar scent close by can help manage mild separation anxiety symptoms and keep them calm until everyone is home for the day.

8. Adjust Your Dog to Time Home Alone

Back-to-school typically means that your dog will need to spend longer periods of time alone. Just like you ease your dog into their new mealtime and exercise routines, it's important to ease them into being home alone.

Start by leaving the house for small periods of time. If they've never been left alone before, you may start out with 20-30 minutes.

When you come back, keep your entrance as calm as possible. Greeting your dog immediately with affection or excited voices can cause them to start anticipating your arrival, making them more anxious while you're gone.

Once your dog seems adjusted to those 30 minutes, increase the time they spend alone gradually until you reach their normal alone time.

9. Consider Doggy Daycare or a Dog Walker

If your dog struggles with being home alone or you just want to get them extra exercise and enrichment in their day, doggy daycare or a scheduled dog walker are great options.

Daycare gives them a safe, fun place to spend the day while you and your children are away. They can play with other dogs and get plenty of exercise, making your daily routine a little less hectic.

If your dog is okay with staying home during the day, having a dog walker come by for a mid-day exercise break can be the perfect amount of fun and enrichment.

Is Your Dog Ready for Back-to-School?

Back-to-school season can be hectic as everyone, including your dog, adjusts to a new schedule for the fall. But with some planning and preparation, you can help your dog adjust ahead of time and keep them enriched and content for the first day of school.

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richard rowlands
Richard Rowlands

Richard has shared his life with pets since childhood, and currently has a rescue cat and dog. He works with veterinarians and pet businesses to improve their content. To find out more, please visit his [website](


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