Helping Your Pet Beat the Back-to-School Blues

GirlAndDog3There are very few things that tug on the heartstrings more than those big, sad eyes of a family pet when his or her best friends head back to school. All summer long, he or she has had the undivided attention of your kids – from numerous walks and Frisbee games to ample snuggle time and crazy sleepovers. But, the kids must return to school and now Fido or Whiskers is developing some separation anxiety.

From chewing on your daughter’s Barbie to increased accidents and general malaise, your pet may exhibit behavioral changes when the daily summer routine gets switched up and the opportunity for play or attention diminishes.

So, how do you help your fur-friend through the very necessary scheduling conflicts and lifestyle changes presented during the new school year?

Start planning well in advance on how to ease your pet into the new schedule. A few weeks before the kids embark on their academic year, try to schedule alone time for your pet in the morning, around the time your kids will prepare to leave for the day. If you are able, encourage family members to start eating breakfast or taking morning walks earlier. Try some “practice runs” by increasing the amount of time your pet is alone or without the kids. While family members are busy elsewhere, offer some rewards or verbal encouragement to ease initial anxiety or stress.

Establish a routine that includes quality time with your pet. While it is easy to get absorbed in the hectic pace of the school season, keep your pet in mind, understanding that he or she might be feeling a little lost and anxious about the changes. Maybe a midday walk isn’t possible, but what about an evening at the park or an early morning snuggle as you prepare for the day ahead. It may mean setting the alarm a few minutes early, but this time helps your pet adjust to the sudden change in routine.

Offer several opportunities for exercise and play. Get up early and go for a brisk walk with your pet. Enjoy a game of Frisbee after dinner. Grab that catnip mouse and scoot it across the kitchen floor. Play hide and seek. All of these forms of physical engagement provide exercise for your pet and the entire family.

Stock up on interesting games and toys, and consider a doggy day care or pet sitter. Some dogs exhibit less than ideal behaviors, such as chewing or barking, while we are away.  Much of this can be related to simple boredom and anxiety about being alone. If your family is away for hours at a time, consider taking him or her to a quality doggy daycare or enlist the services of a professional pet sitter or dog walker.

Certain behaviors, such as increased accidents, missing the litterbox, or persistent barking or vocalization, can be indicators of underlying health issues. If your pet is having an especially difficult time with the back-to-school blues, we encourage you to schedule a wellness exam and discuss your options to reduce the impact of separation anxiety, as well as provide an overall assessment of your pet’s health and behavior.