Helping Your Pets Adjust to Back-to-School Schedules
Whether it is back-to-school for you or the kids, be them young or old, this time of year is an exciting time filled with renewed energy and schedule changes. Many of us think back-to-school changes only apply to humans, but our furbabies have to make adjustments this time of year, as well. During summer vacation, pets grow accustomed to constant playtime, unlimited attention, and having loved ones nearby around the clock. When school starts, the lazy days of summer come to an abrupt halt. While cats are often affected by back-to-school changes, this time of year is particularly stressful for dogs. Fortunately, we have some tips on how to keep the back-to-school buzz low-stress for everyone.
Do A Few Practice Runs
Practice and perfect your exit routine either for yourself or your family without actually leaving. Gather keys and other belongings, say your goodbyes, open the door, but do not exit your home. These events trigger your pet and their anxiety, but by allowing pets to get comfortable with these cues, they become less anxious.
Another solution is practice leaving your furbaby home alone for short intervals. Start with small blocks of time, like 15-20 minutes, and gradually, work your way up to longer absences. Doing this process gradually helps your furbaby understand that there are times when it is necessary that they will be alone. However, this is not permanent. They aren’t being abandoned – you will return!
Skip the Fanfare
When returning or departing, keep the production to a minimum. Say your goodbyes, but try to skip any petting or coddling at this time. This behavior from you can easily trigger anxiety in your furbaby. Upon returning home, stay calm. Try to refrain from enthusiastic greetings until your furbaby is calm, too. By doing so, you teach your pet that exiting and returning are common routines that do not require anxiety or over-excitement.
Adequate Nourishment and Exercise Make All the Difference
One way to help your pet keep boredom at bay is to tire them out with proper exercise. The rush and excitement of the morning routine followed by a day of limited activity can leave your pet anxious and confused. Try taking a long walk or engaging in active playtime with your pet before you leave for school. Feed them an adequate meal after playtime, and with any luck, they’ll be too exhausted to worry about your departure.
Provide Plenty of Energy Outlets
Since your furbaby will be alone for most of the day, you’ll have to get creative in keeping them occupied. Pent up energy and anxiety can lead pets to become destructive to your property or themselves. Try these energy outlets for your pet:
- Window perch for your cat or window access for your pup
- Hide treats around the house to encourage hunting and catching
- Use puzzle toys with treats or frozen Kong treats that keep your pet engaged for longer periods of time
Know the Importance of Routine
Like children, and even many adults, pets thrive on routine. Therefore, it is crucial that everyone in your household understands and upholds new schedules. During back-to-school time, everyone is adjusting, but maintaining schedules will help everyone in the home be happier and healthier. Have your children or other housemates get involved and acclimated to your pet’s feeding, exercise, and playtime schedules.
One way children can get involved is by playing with the family furbaby upon returning home. This is a great time for a brisk walk, playtime with a special toy, or simply, afternoon cuddles. These activities help pets reconnect with their family members while allowing time to unwind for humans. Keep these activities at the same time each day – your pet will thank you for it.
This is a period of transition for you as well as your furbaby. Bear in mind that practice makes perfect. If you find that your furbaby is struggling to adjust to the new routine, do not overwhelm them. Take a few steps back or rethink your routine all together. If undesirable behaviors continue well into the school year, consider working with a trainer that specializes in separation anxiety. If necessary, consider investing in a pet sitter, dog walker, or doggy daycamp in order to give your furbaby the attention and stimulation they need.