Summer vacation officially came to a close for thousands of local children and teens last week. I’m sure there are lots of kids out there who are feeling the Back to School Blues, but did you know that students aren’t the only ones who feel anxious and sad when school goes back in session?
Dogs and cats thrive on routine, and during the summer they get used to having kids and even parents home more often for attention and playtime. When school starts and everyone is gone all day, it can be upsetting for our pets and can even cause separation anxiety to act up.
If you notice your pooch or feline acting clingy and depressed – or if you come home to find items disturbed or torn up – it’s a safe bet that they are not dealing well with the transition. Here are a few tricks to help ease your pets back into their new back-to-school routine.
Get the kids involved: During the summertime, kids have more time to give love and playtime to your pets. When school starts, try to replace that old routine with a new one. If your pets know that the kids get home every day at 2:45 and will play and cuddle them, they will have a new routine to look forward to. If your kids do homework every day after dinner, let the pets help them study by curling up at their feet or by their side.
Get your pets moving: Take your dog for a long walk or run or have your kids play ball with him before you all leave in the morning. If you have a feline, run around the house with a string toy to wear her out. Feed them breakfast after the activity. The exercise and full belly will hopefully result in a relaxed, sleepy pet who naps all day and doesn’t even notice you’re gone.
Don’t be dramatic: Avoid the emotional, sad goodbyes when you leave in the morning – it will only upset you and your pet. Instead, make your goodbye brief and upbeat. Whenever I leave the house, my dog Blue runs right for his treats and looks at me expectantly. That’s because he’s learned to associate me leaving with a good thing – yummy treats. If your dog is treat motivated, this may help you get out the door with less trauma for both parties. If the mere sight of picking up your keys or kid’s backpack upsets your pet, try picking up the items and walking around the house without actually leaving. This should help your pet not to associate those items with impending doom.
The most important thing is to have patience with your pets as they adjust to everyone’s new schedule. They can get lonely, nervous or anxious just like people – especially since they don’t understand that we’ll always return home to them.