Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital’s Blog
Will Your Pet’s Behavior Change When The Kids Return To School?
Getting back into the swing of the academic schedule can come with a high learning curve – and not only for your kids. Your family pet may have opinions that differ from the typical zeal for new school shoes, sweater weather, and upcoming fall holidays. But don’t despair! There are ways you can help your family pet beat the back to school blues, and your pet’s behavior can only benefit from some extra time, caring, and patience.
Where Is Everyone?
One minute the house is a bustling comedy of errors and the kids are running all over the place looking for lunchboxes or permission slips. The next minute? The house is empty, the dust is settling, and Fluffy or Fido is left to his or her own devices until the final bell of the day.
Many seasoned pets may be accustomed to the seasonal changes, but lots of pets enamored with family summer vacations, daily walks to the pond, or constant attention easily have difficulties accepting the new fall routine.
Framing Your Pet’s Experience
Your pet’s behavior might indicate that he or she will be negatively affected by any slight changes in the household dynamic, and an empty house for six-plus hours a day makes a big impact.
To help your pet handle this change, introduce the new routine a few weeks before and slowly add longer stretches to your time away. You know your pet the best and if you notice any signs of depression, separation anxiety, or lethargy, please let us know. We also recommend not altering the new routine too much over school breaks. Keep it on an even keel.
Addressing Your Pet’s Behavior
If your family partakes in your pet’s care together, allow your child (or kids) to help out the family pet during his or her time of need. Encourage your family to show love, kindness, and compassion to the family through extra time playing or snuggling together before departing each morning, and returning at night. Additionally:
- Take your pet to his or her favorite place in the house or crate to boost feelings of safety and security. When you leave the house, he or she will be more likely to remain in that spot.
- Increase your pet’s physical activity and mental stimulation when you get home. Reward him or her for good behavior.
- Provide a mentally stimulating (and rewarding) toy behind, such as a Kong.
- Establish new mealtimes and exercise routines for your pet that you can all adhere to
- Never punish or scold your pet if the back to school blues makes him or her behave differently.
When Your Pet Needs Help
A pet that is visibly distressed by your leaving may benefit from professional support to help curb problems, such as:
- Excessive barking, howling, whimpering, or whining
- Destructive behavior
- Indiscriminate soiling
- Repetitive searching, sniffing, and looking out of windows
- Lack of appetite
- Noise sensitivity or panic
- Clingy behavior after family returns
- Cat scratching
Lastly, if your pet has trouble fighting boredom, your pantry, kitchen garbage container, potted plants, or storage areas that previously never posed a risk may become quite dangerous. Continuing a close watch over your pet’s behavior (and any changes) will help to keep him or her safe all year long.
Making The Grade
If you can arrange for a pet sitter or dog walker to come by in your absence might be a great way to soothe your fretful or anxious pet. Remember to encourage your kids to keep up the play times and exercise, and call us with any questions.