The start of the new school year can be a time of great excitement for students and parents alike. But in the hustle and bustle of school supplies, backpacks, and first-day pictures, it’s easy to overlook our four-legged friends.
Chances are, your pet has been enjoying the extra time with the kids during the summer break and he or she may wind up feeling lonely or anxious once your children are back at school. Help your pet beat those “back to school blues” with our tips on helping your furry companion cope this fall.
Know The Signs
Whether your pet is a seasoned veteran of the back to school routine, or it’s the first time he or she has had to face the loss of one or more of the “pack” during the day, your pet may need a little TLC during those first few weeks of the school year.
Observe your pet closely in the days following the start of school and be on the lookout for signs of:
- Depression – Depression generally manifests itself with symptoms such as lack of energy, listlessness, loss of appetite, hiding or cowering, and not wanting to play.
- Separation anxiety – Unlike depression, the signs of separation anxiety tend to include more erratic behavior such as barking and whining, frantic clawing at doors, windows or fences in an effort to get out, destructive chewing, and accidents in the house.
How You Can Help
Exercise, exercise, exercise! – One of the best things you can do to alleviate boredom and stress for your pet is to provide him or her with regular exercise. For dogs, get the whole family involved and set up a routine to exercise your pooch both morning and evening. Provide indoor cats with a cat tree or other cat-friendly climbing and scratching systems.
Take a break – If there is no one home during the day while the kids are at school, try not to let your dog be alone for the entirety of the day. If possible, take him or her to work with you or enlist the help of a neighbor or professional dog-walker to let your dog out for some quick exercise and interaction in the middle of the day. A few days a week at a doggie day care can also provide opportunities for mental stimulation, socialization and activity.
Remain Calm – Don’t make a big deal out of leaving or coming home. Your pet can sense your emotions and if you are upset when you leave or overly excited upon arriving home it can contribute to your pup’s anxiety. Encourage all members of the family to keep calm, cool and collected when exiting and entering the home.
Counter conditioning – We all know dogs are food focused, with some dogs this love of treats can be used to condition him or her to associate being left alone with something pleasurable. Offer your dog a food-dispensing toy or safe rawhide chew or bone every time your kids leave the house and head for school.
Be kind – Never scold or punish your pet for displaying anxious behavior. Punishment may make him or her even more upset and the problem could worsen. Be patient and kind and work with your pet until the feelings of depression or anxiety subside. Remember, back to school time can be tough on everyone!
Pay attention to your pet’s symptoms; if they don’t change or if they get worse give us a call. We can help you rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be at the root of the problem.