So, you and your family (furry and non-furry) have been social distancing for months and are gearing up for either partial in-person or online schooling. Your pup has likely had a ton of attention from your non-furry family members during this time. Shifts in your pet may occur as school starts up. You may observe changes in appetite, mood, energy levels or mischievous activity.
Is there a way to predict how your dog may react? In a 2016 study with 220 households, pet parenting styles, factors affecting parent behavior (like stress and anxiety) and interaction styles were examined and showed interesting trends to learn from. Some of these wisdom nuggets may help you predict how your pet may change his/her behavior as the summer ends and how to minimize negative effects by dogs that receive less attention throughout the day.
A dog’s age, gender and neutered status are key drivers for stress response predictions. Older dogs and intact dogs (not spayed or neutered) tend to respond with more aggression in stressful social situations.
Also, the less “warm” (defined as affection and enthusiasm shown in positive situations) you and family members are with your dog is associated with higher aggression in stressful social situations. These factors can translate to an observed increase in bad behavior as your dog transitions “back to school”.
The more openly warm a dog’s human(s) is, the more passive and retreating the dog’s behavior is in a stressful/threatening situation. This could result in a transient drop in energy level, “depressed” behavior, or loss of appetite as your dog transitions “back to school”.
All in all, your dog will be affected by the shift in attention. The good news is that dogs adjust to the change over time and do better with routine. More attention, walks, increased difficulty of “work” you have them do are some examples of strategies you can deploy to counteract some of these affects.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5168437/ (and references therein)
Dr. Stein holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of California at Berkeley where she studied signaling pathways involved in stress response and community development in bacteria and received her B.S. in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Iowa where she studied the interaction between M. tuberculosis and innate immune cells. She founded Primal Health, LLC to focus on improving the quality of life and longevity of both humans and animals by producing innovative, consumable and safe dental hygiene products. Their patented prebiotic technology centers on re-engineering disease-causing bacterial biofilms into those that are health-promoting.