How to Prepare Your Dog for Back to School · The Wildest

Skip to main content

16 Ways to Help Your Dog Adjust to Back to School

Because this season should mean more fun—and less stress—for your pup.

by Rebecca Caplan
October 16, 2023
a child with a backpack walking a dog, a collage of products over the image: a sweater, a backpack, a milk toy, a puzzle toy, calming supplements
Collage: Kinship Creative

Regardless if Meg Ryan’s words in You’ve Got Mail about “a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils” mean anything to you, fall means going back to school. We’ve all been back in the fall schedule for several weeks now, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t still making some adjustments. You and your family might already be used to the whole grab-breakfast, get-out-the-door morning rush, but your pup could still be having trouble catching on.

As much as our dogs love doing the same thing every day, a return to fall schedules, specifically a large change like going back to school, can be overwhelming for our pets. “When life shifts into overdrive as fall ramps up our pets might withdraw, or at the opposite end of the spectrum, might resort to destructive behaviors they haven’t done in a while, like raiding the garbage can,” says Victoria Schade, a dog trainer and contributor at  Covetrus Great Pet Care, tells The Wildest. “Change can be stressful for pets, so we need to consider how back-to-school season impacts them as well, and take steps to make it less upsetting.” 

To help you and your pet cope with the busy season, we compiled a “back-to-school” list to help ease your dog into those cozy fall mornings.

Btw, our editors (and their pets) picked out these products. They’re always in stock at the time we publish, but there’s a chance they’ll sell out. If you do buy through our links, we may earn a commission. (We’ve got a lot of toys to buy over here, you know?)

lambwolf back to school set

Your dog might not actually be headed back to the classroom right now, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t benefit from some homework. Per Schade: “Your dog has physical and mental needs that have to be addressed, especially during transitional periods that can be stressful.”

That’s where this school-themed sniff work toy by Lambwolf Collective comes in. Hiding treats in the folds and pockets of this toy challenges your dog’s brain, keeping them engaged and focused.

nina ottosson brick puzzle game

Clearly, we can’t say enough good things about puzzle toys. But this toy is truly a cut above. Nina Ottosson, whose puzzles are recommended by many trainers and dog psychologists, knows the importance of keeping your pup’s brain engaged.

“If dogs are not provided with an outlet for their energy in the form of different types of activity or other stimulation, they become  bored  and can sometimes find their own ‘activity,’ which we, as dog-owners, often do not appreciate, like  chewingbarking, or just general hyperactivity,” she told The Wildest in a May interview.

injoya pb & j snuffle mat

Another great way to keep your dog busy and enriched this fall, this snuffle mat is a fun reminder of the classic back-to-school lunch we’re all still nostalgic for.

Here’s an endorsement of snuffle mats from veterinary behaviorist Dr. Valli Parthasarathy: “Snuffle mats are a great way to provide enrichment and entertainment by helping dogs use their amazing sense of smell to find the hidden food. Sniff-based mental stimulation can help promote overall relaxation in dogs, as well.”

mateeylife lick mat

If your pup needs help relaxing as you and your fam get back into your busy routines, lick mats are the perfect solution. Licking is a natural, relaxing behavior for your dog, so these mats work to mentally stimulate and calm your pup. 

Last year, trainer and our Collective member Nicole Ellis told The Wildest about the benefits of toys like this and recommends giving a lick mat to your dog before you leave for the house: “Make the pre-work mornings about mental enrichment. You’ve probably heard dog trainers talk about the benefits of keeping your dog’s brain engaged. Mental stimulation helps a dog decompress and burn off excess energy. By the time you leave for the office, your dog will be ready for a good, long nap.”

thunderase pheromone calming spray

Prepare your pup for a smooth transition back to your busy fall schedule with this pheromone spray. Designed to calm your dog by mimicking the pheromones of their mother, this spray can help with bigger issues around returning to your routine.

In addition, Ellis has recommended keeping your morning routine as calm as possible to head off any separation anxiety: “Pick up your keys and walk around the house. Put your coat on and then sit on the sofa. Grab your backpack and go back to the kitchen.” 

wobble wag giggle ball

Even as we return to our busy schedules, the best thing we can do to help our pups handle the chaos is to make dedicated time just for them.

“It’s not easy to carve out extra time to make sure your pets’ needs are being met, but doing so helps to smooth out the bumps of a busy new season,” Schade says. “You might have to get up even earlier to make sure your best friend gets a full walk in before the day begins, or you might have to rally for an intense game of fetch at the end of the day.”

This fun, interactive treat ball is the perfect way to level up your fetch game — and makes for a fun after-school activity for the whole family.

rebecca caplan

Rebecca Caplan

Rebecca Caplan is a writer based in Brooklyn whose work has been featured in The New Yorker, Reductress, and Vulture. She lives in Brooklyn with her perfect, toothless dog Moose.

Related articles