Guest Post By: Dr. Susan Wright, DVM (Learn more about Susan at the end of this post)
It may be tempting to transform your college-bound teenager’s bedroom into a new reading nook, guestroom, or workout room, but even if your son or daughter is not planning to come stay at home for summers and breaks, there may be a four-legged family member that needs to hang on to the memories of that room for a bit.
It is easier to say congrats than it is to say goodbye to your recent high school graduate, but as a parent, you understand this next step in your child’s life. The family dog, however, is watching boxes leave the house and not return and then his playmate goes away, too.
We know that dogs are in touch with our emotions, so chances are the family hound felt the changes coming. But even when he sensed the anticipation and participated in the belly rub goodbye, you may still find yourself left with a grieving pup at home. Your family dog who once ran around the backyard to eagerly fetch that stick may now lay docile and start looking sickly. You may have already noticed the signs that your family dog is missing your college student.
Symptom: changes in eating habits, or refusing to eat
How to Help: Offer something tasty your pup can’t refuse. Also, consider adding supplements for extra nutrition. Try a food dispensing toy, or play hide-and-seek with treats to make food more exciting and enticing.
Symptom: lethargic, and a loss of interest in activities that the dog usually enjoys
How to Help: If the dog enjoys outings, take him on more of them. It can be as simple as a trip to the mailbox, but it will get the dog up, moving and active. If he enjoys playing fetch, but paces the yard looking for your son or daughter, try taking the game to a new location like the park.
Symptom: changes in sleep habits, or not sleeping where he used to sleep
How to Help: Did the family pooch formerly sleep with your child? Try adding a familiar piece of the bedding to the place the dog is now sleeping. If the hound is up late pacing, a familiar smelling blanket may help him relax. Some dogs will respond well to swaddling, and others may be happy with changing rooms and snuggling with someone new.
Symptom: Hides from the family, or remains silent when he used to bark
How to Help: Create new routines that your dog can look forward to, maybe he used to anticipate your son or daughter returning from school at a certain time. He would wait by the door and eagerly bark to greet the arrival. Try adding a new activity into your dog’s day at the time when your dog would normally be awaiting this greeting from your son or daughter. For example, maybe the dog now gets his coat brushed at that time, or goes on a walk around the block to distract him from his longing. You may just find these new activities with the dog will help the entire family adjust to the change of a grad going off to college.
About the Author: Susan Wright is an expert with dog training collars as well as practicing veterinarian, dog owner, and author of dog related books and other publications.