Bark to School

Bark to School

Schools are officially back in session! As we transition our children back into their school year routines, we should also keep in mind that our pets need adjustment, too. Read local dog trainer Kat Stevens-Stanley's tips for helping your whole family, fur children included, adjust to their new schedules.

Schools are officially back in session! As we transition our children back into their school year routines, we should also keep in mind that our pets need adjustment, too. Read local dog trainer Kat Stevens-Stanley's tips for helping your whole family, fur children included, adjust to their new schedules.

It’s that time of year again! Back-to-school can be a busy, hectic, and yet an exciting time for families. Autumn is just around the corner, the leaves are beginning to change, the air is cooling, and routines are changing from the long “dog days of summer.” As we move forward into this new season, it’s good to stop and think about our dogs and how this yearly event can impact our four-legged family members.  

Back-To-School Tips for Dogs and Kids

With the beginning of a new school year, routines can change drastically. Dogs can get comfortable in routines and when things are suddenly different one day from the next, they can become stressed and anxious. If your routine is going to have major changes, easing your dogs into what the new schedule will be like can be helpful. Vary your walk and outside times. Start gradually switching your feeding schedule (if this is something that will impact your day). If you will be gone for long periods of time and your dog isn’t used to or comfortable with this, talk to a professional now about how to make this change easier.  

Morning Routines

Mornings especially can be very busy in a house with little ones who are going off to school. Take care to make sure the hustle and bustle of your mornings allows space for your dog. If you have a house full of kids and adults hurrying around trying to get ready, make sure your dog has a place he can chill out away from all the action if he’d prefer peace and quiet (like a crate or dog bed placed somewhere else). Sometimes our stress can impact our dogs and how we react to them. If you’re a morning person, getting up early to walk your dog might make for a dog that settles down for a nap after you’ve returned home. A that is comfortable in an alone-zone will come in handy when your children bring home new school friends to play.  

The Bus Stop

If you have little ones who you accompany to a bus stop, use your best judgment if you decide to bring your dog (this is also true for bringing your dog along to after school sporting events). Dogs can be attractive to large groups of kids. If your dog is with you and unfamiliar kids are interested in greeting him, be sure to check in with your dog and supervise, supervise, supervise. If your dog is showing signs of stress (yawning, head turning away from kids, looking to you for direction, or a “help get me out of this” face, lip licking or tongue flicking) it is better to ask children not to pet him than to have an irreversible accident. Even children who may be familiar to your dog (perhaps friends of your own children) should always be supervised.  

Colder Weather

As summer escapes us and the Michigan school year gets going, our kids are dressed in more cold weather gear. Items such as puffy coats, scarves, winter hats, gloves, mittens, and face masks are all things that can have big impacts on our appearance. Even people who our dogs are used to seeing and being comfortable with can become alarming when dressed in cold weather gear. Do not be surprised if your dog seems to react differently to people dressed this way.   


With the start of the new school year, new babysitters and child caretakers often come into our lives. It is unrealistic to assume our babysitters can watch our children and dogs at the same time. Make sure your dog has a chill-out zone with an activity (like a stuffed KONG or bully stick) when a babysitter is at your house. This can be especially important if your children will be running in and out of doors into yards while you are not at home (some kids like to show off their extra wild and energetic behavior when a sitter stops by). The last thing you want is a dog escaping when you are not home.  

New Schedules

Once the school year gets going, sports, clubs and other after school activities can demand you and your children’s attention. Be sure to schedule any vet visits, wellness appointments, or vaccine updates before your schedule is too packed full of new things and it’s difficult to make time for your dog. A dog walker can become your dog and your family’s new buddy if your schedule becomes demanding. If your dog is traveling in a car with you while carting kids around to activities, always be sure to secure your dog in a crate or hatchback area (preferably with a seatbelt) separate from where children are riding. It is impossible to supervise dogs and kids while your eyes are on the road.  

With some planning and these tips I hope you and your family dog will be off to a great new school year start!   

About Kat Stevens-Stanley

For more tips on making sense of your specific “multi-species” dog and child household, see Kat for a Family Dog consultation. Kat Stevens-Stanley is a local mom, dog trainer and Metro Detroit’s ONLY Family Paws Parent Education licensed educator. Let her solutions for dog and child household chaos help and support your growing and changing family. Kat can be reached at


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