Heading back to school is always an exciting time for families. New teachers, new friends, new routines, new things to learn! But for pets, watching their favorite human playmate run out the door to catch the bus can be “ruff.”
After a summer full of fun, frolic, adventures and non-stop interaction, cats and dogs can become depressed or anxious when suddenly left alone all day. Occasionally, some pets can also develop more extreme behaviors like loud meowing or barking, escape attempts, panting, drooling, and chewing on inappropriate items.
To help ease the transition, try incorporating some of these ideas into your new school routine:
Prep for School
If your child’s classes haven’t begun yet, start preparing your pet now. For a week or two leading up to the first bell, plan some activities away from home. On the first day, stay away for a couple of hours, then gradually increase the time you’re gone.
The Same Old Routine
Pets thrive on routine and a sudden change can be stressful and disorienting. Think about the parts of your pet’s current routine – meals, walks, training – that can stay the same, and try to stick to the established schedule.
New and Improved
For any routines that must be altered, replace them with new ones. For example, if you can no longer walk the dog in the morning because you’re driving your child to school…why not just take your pup along for the ride?
Imagine being all alone without anything to do all day long. You can’t even get yourself a snack even though the fridge is right there! After a few days or weeks of this, you might come up with some…ahem…creative ways to entertain yourself. Head boredom off at the pass by leaving your pet with interactive toys that engage his mind and body.
If your pup is dog-friendly and well socialized, think about taking her to reputable doggie daycare a few times a week. She’ll get lots of physical and mental stimulation, along with plenty of attention from the staff.
Not all dogs are social or love to hang out in big groups. And my cats Turdie and Olivia seem to think “kitty camp” is a terrible idea. Luckily, if your pet is a homebody, there are plenty of experienced dog walkers and cat cuddlers who are only too happy to drop by and entertain your furry family member while you’re away.
After School Special
Talk to your children about how much your pets miss them when they’re at school. Encourage them to spend some quality one-on-one time with their special buddy when they get home. This might mean playing together in the back yard, talking to them about what they learned, or curling up on the couch and doing homework or reading out loud with the pet by their side.
New Year, New Responsibilities
Including kids in pet-related chores is a great way to teach compassion and commitment. So with each new school year, give your child a little more responsibility when it comes to your pet. Make sure tasks are age-appropriate so that both kid and critter are set up for success!
Avoid the Dog Pounds
We’ve all heard of the Freshman 15 but what about the Fido 5? Even just one or two extra pounds can have a detrimental effect on your pet’s health. With school in session, chances are he’s not as active as he was during the summer. So take a second look at his diet and adjust meals and treats as necessary.
Yes, you can teach an old (or young) dog new tricks! And why should kids have all the back-to-school fun, anyway? Fall is the perfect time to sign your pooch up for a new training class. Depending on where you live, you might find options that range from obedience to agility to canine choreography!