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Back to School for Buddy

"dog"September can be a difficult transition time for the family dog. After having the children home to play with all summer, your best friend may be lonely and bored – especially if mom and dad are off at work all day.

A sudden change in routine can cause an otherwise happy, well-behaved dog to display undesirable, even destructive behaviors.

Exercise is key
If Buddy has started chewing on the furniture or messing in the house, it’s time to take action.

Exercise is one of the most important elements in solving the problem, because a well-exercised dog is more likely to sleep than chew up the sofa. The family pet is probably getting less physical activity, mental stimulation and one-on-one attention than he’s been accustomed to over the summer. Boredom can cause him to get into all sorts of trouble when he’s home alone.

Best Friends trainers recommend pumping up your dog’s exercise routine to at least 30 minutes a day. An active round of fetch, a long walk, or roughhousing with canine friends at the dog park are all good options. If possible, they suggest, exercise him in the morning, so he’s tired and ready for a nap when you walk out the door.

Training refresher
A refresher training course can also be a good idea at this time of year. During unstructured summer days, your pet’s previous training may have been forgotten from lack of regular practice. For his own safety, every dog should be able to consistently obey basic commands like "come", "sit", "down" and "stay" , say Best Friends trainers.

If your pet has forgotten his basic skills — or has never been trained – now is a good time to enroll in a group class in Basic Manners. You’ll learn proper techniques for correcting and reinforcing behaviors.

If your dog already knows the basics, an advanced training course can help you keep him challenged. There are a wide range of specialty courses and training classes available as well as competitive programs like agility and freestyle that will engage mind as well as body.

Dogs like to have a job, say Best Friends trainers, and any regularly-practiced training routine will be good for mental as well as physical stimulation. Even a few minutes a couple of times a day can be effective – as long as the sessions are practiced consistently every day. Whatever type of activity you choose, they add, be sure to reward his hard work — with affection or with a treat.

Other tactics
Another good alternative to lonely days at home is doggy day camp, where dogs play together in a safe, supervised environment. In most cases, a pet need only attend two or three days a week to benefit. Most dogs come home tired and happy from all the exercise and play and the benefits last for several days.

Distraction tactics can also help with some pets. Leaving your dog with a cube or a kong filled with peanut butter, cheese or another favorite treat can keep him busy for hours.

For more information about dog training and problem behaviors, seek the advice of a professional trainer. To find a dog trainer near you, call 1-800-FOR-PETS or visit the Locations section of the website.