Each year when September rolls around, I can’t help but recall a few scenes from the late summers of my childhood:

That last s’more by the campfire…

Saying goodbye to my camp buddies, knowing it would be a whole year until I saw them again…

Trading in my Timberland boat shoes for shiny loafers and extra-thick socks…

(Hey, they were cool at the time! 😜)

As a mother, September meant helping my boys get back into their school year routines: going to bed and waking earlier, coordinating pre-season soccer practice and scheduling rehearsal schedules, our annual trip to Staples for school supplies, and setting “new school year resolutions” for better study habits and reliable sleep routines!

Sound familiar?

Both of my kids are in college now, so that “first day of school” feeling doesn’t factor into the equation as much! But to me, this time of year always feels like a time to get back to routines that went by the wayside during the more relaxed summer months. 

A back-to-school photo of my sons from way back when

And, it’s a time to get your dog back into a routine, too!

Many dogs might struggle with separation anxiety during this transition period, as kids who have been home all summer are suddenly gone all day and relaxed trips to the lake give way to cooler temperatures, fewer treats, and more time spent indoors.

Here are some of my tips for getting back into a routine this month and helping your dog adapt to and cope with the changes in season and schedule:

1. Use the crate.

If you’ve been out of practice, begin to use the crate again so that your dog is ready to spend time more in it when you leave the house. Anticipate your life getting busier by giving him alone time in small (but regular) doses. More scheduled crate time will help to minimize the shock when you return to work or are out of the house more for kids’ events.

Would you like to learn more about crate training? My next course is a deep dive into this highly-requested topic! Join the waitlist and be the first to know when it goes live.

2. Make car time a game.

Will your pup be spending more time in the car, tagging along for student pickups and joining you on leaf-peeping excursions? (If you know, you know.)

Spend some time playing a simple game of getting in and out of the car to build up your dog’s enthusiasm for car rides! Plan a few short drives (even just around the block) so that she can acclimate to the car and gain confidence before building up to longer drives. Make those busy transition times easier by practicing getting in the car and out again as a repetitive training game! I use the command “kennel up!”

3. Work on leash skills.

The fall is a time when many people’s lives get busier and more social. This is a great time to practice leash work!

Re-visit the basics to get your dog really comfortable with following your lead on the leash so you can carry on with your busy life. Summers tend to have more off-leash time, so even if your dog was good on the leash before, prepare to revisit the basics as they will benefit from review. (Check out my favorite leashes here in the “Dog Walks” section!)

Mazlo and I taking a walk

4. Practice polite greetings.

Your dog may also have a busier social calendar in the fall! If you have school-aged kids, you may have new friends coming to your house, some of whom may not like dogs. And you’ll likely be visiting new places where people will want to pet your pup! (Obviously – he’s adorable!)

Spend time practicing polite greetings in contexts where he’ll need to use them. Next time you’re at your regular coffee shop or park, when a stranger asks to pet your dog, simply ask if they’d be willing to help:

“Sure, you can pet my puppy! We’d love your help with training, if you’d be up for it. Can you please ask my dog to “SIT,” and give her this treat before petting her?”

Most people will be happy to help!

You can also work on your dog’s resilience to new sights and sounds with socialization work! Learn about some fun, simple socialization activities you can try with your dog in this post.

As you gear up for the changes fall will bring, don’t forget about your furry family member! With just a bit of extra planning, you can help ease your dog back into post-summer routines. And after all, don’t you want your loyal hound to be excited for the first day of school too?

Speaking of school, don’t forget to enroll your new puppy in The Puppy System!

This online foundational training course is like kindergarten for puppies…but it’s only 4 weeks long, completely foolproof, and your dog will be the envy of every other dog parent in town!