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Dogs get back-to-school blues

  • This Aug. 19, 2014 photo provided by Jill Williams shows kindergartner Harry Williams, 7, with his dogs Flora and Gandalf on his way to the bus stop on first day of school in Kanab, Utah. For millions of dogs across the country, summer is gone and so are their best buddies. Most dogs object for a while but eventually adjust to the new hours. But millions of others will feel abandoned, panicky, sad and unable to cope as they look for ways to lash out. (AP Photo/Jill Williams)

LOS ANGELES — Young people aren't the only ones who get back-to-school blues. Pooches used to months of constant playtime can get upset when their best buddies disappear with the dog days of summer.

Many dogs whine and wait eagerly at the front door but eventually adjust to the absence of their young owners when they are in class. But millions of dogs can feel abandoned, sad and unable to cope — and they look for ways to lash out.

Nearly 20 percent of the nation's 80 million dogs have separation anxiety, said Dr. Nick Dodman of Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts.

Some 70 percent of dogs with separation anxiety will bark, howl or whine; 60 percent will destroy something, leaving behind scratched doors, damaged blinds or torn curtains; and a third are so upset they have accidents, Dodman said.

Dianne Larson of Santa Clarita, California, has seen it firsthand. School started two weeks ago, and year-old Ruby, a black Lab, still searches for Larson's son Tanner, 14, when he's gone.

"She stays in his room. If his door is closed, she will whine to get in," Dianne Larson said. If the dog isn't in Tanner's room, she's at the front window watching for him.

Side effects for anxious dogs don't stop at whimpering. Some dogs refuse to eat when their owners are gone, experts say.

"There will be an exuberant greeting when you do come home, one that can last several minutes and be completely crazy, then the dog will run to the food bowl," Dodman said.

Nearly half the anxious dogs have noise phobias, so if a storm hits while they are in an empty house, they can panic. A really insecure dog might become clingy and follow their owners around.

Besides recommended independence training, there are some things owners can do to ease their dogs' blues. Dodman suggests:


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