Can dogs have ‘Back To School’ Blues?

My son just went off to college, leaving my husband and I with his five year-old dog. It’s only been two days, but I can see that the dog is very depressed that he’s gone. Actually, we all are. What can I do to cheer him up?

Short of having your son attend a local college and live at home, nothing is going to instantly cure your dog’s blues. What will add to his sorrow is if you become his partner in commiseration, and mope around the house, in essence, reassuring him that something is terribly wrong through your actions and emotions. Since the dog and your son were very close, you and your husband probably didn’t factor into his life. Now you have the responsibility of not only tending to his daily needs, but also forming a strong emotional bond with him. Just by doing the daily, basic tasks of feeding, walking and showing him affection will help cheer him up.  

To accelerate the attachment process, try and spend quality time together – going on a hike, taking him to dog training class, or becoming a certified pet therapy team! All will do wonders for both his (and your) state of mind.  

By committing yourself to forming this relationship with the dog, I promise that by the time your son goes back to college after his next school break, his dog will have a much easier time adjusting. As for you and your husband - keep the Kleenex handy! 

Ever since my daughter left for college last month, her dog is driving me crazy! She’s constantly begging me to throw the ball and go for walks all day long. My daughter was more than happy to take her on daily 5K runs on the beach, but I don’t have that kind of time or energy. Should I get another dog to keep her company?

Before I answer, please re-read your first sentence, the one that ends with “.....her dog is driving me crazy!” If one dog is driving you crazy, does doubling your dog count sound like a solution to or an escalation of your problem?  I know the logic behind the idea is that the dog would have a playmate and leave you alone, but trust me, if you don’t have time for one dog, you definitely don’t have time for two.  The “To Do” list for a second dog (puppy or adult) includes housebreaking, obedience training, and socializing; and that’s not including everything that you already do for your daughter’s dog. Right now, you need to address the dogs’ need for exercise and mental stimulation, so if you’re not up to running on the beach, go there anyway and put the dog on a long line.  That way, you can throw a ball or a Frisbee and give her the hard, cardio exercise that she needs.  And just in case you were wondering, turning her out into a fenced yard won’t cut it - a lone dog will rarely tire themselves out that way.  Finding someone who has a compatible dog and taking them to a safely enclosed area is a good choice, too, but only if you stay with them to provide supervision.   As a last resort, you could always hire a dog walker to take her on exercise excursions, but I’ve known lots of parents of college freshman who got into the best shape of their lives because of their new job as “dog babysitters.”