Back-to-school for your dog: How to help your pet adjust to a new routine

Girl sitting on skateboard with a yellow lab

As students across Minnesota head back to school, families are adjusting to new routines. 

Many parents might be worried about getting their kids on a new bedtime schedule, and they should also be thinking about the adjustments their pets will be making. 

Routine is important for pets because predictability can reduce stress. Here are a few tips to help your dog adjust to the new back-to-school routine. 

1. Start the transition early

Starting early is key. A few weeks before the new schedule begins, Animal Humane Society’s expert trainers recommend slowly increasing how much time your pet spends alone in the home. 

Then, start adjusting the time of their morning walks, potty breaks, and breakfast to match their new, upcoming schedule. If needed, consider asking a neighbor or hiring a dog walker to let your dog out for midday potty breaks. 

2. Provide your pet with plenty of exercise

Before you leave for the day, make sure to provide physical exercise and mental enrichment in the morning. 

This can include things like making your dog forage for their breakfast in in the grass, in a snuffle mat, or a snuffle box. You can also engage him or her by playing a game of fetch or practicing something they learned in training. Whatever it might be, don’t forget to keep it positive! 

3. Keep your pet busy while you’re away

Now that you are ready to walk out the door and your dog has had their morning fun, it’s time to start thinking about what they can do on their own while you’re away. 

Consider leaving a food dispensing activity such as KONG Wobbler or frozen Toppl, but be sure anything left is safe for your dog while unsupervised. You can also leave the TV or radio on to block out outside noise that might be upsetting for your pup. 

As you continue to work on adjusting your pet’s alone time, try to keep return trips home low key. When you’re finally home for the day, take your dog out to potty shortly after returning and plan for more quality time together in the evening. 

Dog working on obedience skills at Animal Humane Society training classes

4. Take your dog back to school too!

Fall is a great time to take your dog back to school too! Nose work is great for dogs of any age, regardless of how much training they’ve had in the past. 

Inspired by the work of scent detection dogs, AHS’s class The Nose Knows allows your dog to use their most natural training tool — their nose! 

It’s a great way to practice fun canine scent games that will teach your dog to find hidden “prizes”. Plus, scent work is fun and it’s a great confidence builder for all dogs. 

You could also consider refreshing your dog’s basic manners or teaching them a solid foundation of good behavior. AHS Basic Skills Obedience Training Classes give your dog practical skills for navigating real-world situations so they can co-exist peacefully in your household. 

Need additional help with your dog's behavior?

If after all of this, your dog still seems stressed by the change to their day, make sure to seek professional help. You can always reach out to the AHS Behavior Helpline