It’s Back-to-School season! Over the past few weeks, households across America have found themselves in the familiar chaos of preparing for school schedules, sporting practices, after school activities, and the general hurried rush that comes with this major change in your family’s schedule. And, as it often happens with swift schedule changes, your pet’s routine can become lost or confusing. Instead of afternoon walks and play time in the park, their companions suddenly leave the house without them.
Our domesticated animals are creatures of habit, especially our canine friends. For a happy and compliant companion, it is important to establish clear rules and a set schedule. With help from North Shore Animal League of America, Pure Life 4 Pets, and Dr. Ernie Ward, we’re going to give you some handy tips to ensure that your pet won’t be left behind.
ANXIETY – AVOID IT.
Even the most happy-go-lucky dog can get anxiety from sudden changes in their environment. Changes in routine and separation from loved ones can lead many dogs to get stressed out. But it doesn’t have to be like that. We recommend trying:
- A week before the kiddos return to school, start preparing your pet for their daytime absence.
- Leave your dog inside early in the morning to simulate school time. You only need to leave them for 30 minutes or so. Let them know the long, lazy summer mornings are coming to an end.
- Start getting out the lunchboxes and other items your dog associates with leaving for school in the morning. The idea is to desensitize them to any anxiety inducing cues prior to school starting.
STICK TO A ROUTINE!
Work with your children to set and follow a daily routine that works for your family’s lifestyle all year long. The schedule should include:
- Walks to one spot for bathroom business
- Walks around the neighborhood or at the park
- Appropriate play at approximately the same time every day
Some routine ideas may include:
- Exercise and play in the morning before the kids leave the house
- Extra attention and play when they get home from school
- Exercise and “family time” in the evening
Establishing a routine your pet can depend on will help them deal with the changes. This not only ensures your pets get the attention and love they deserve, but will also help your children learn how to be responsible, caring pet owners.
TURN ON SOME TUNES!
During the summer, your house is full of sounds! When the kids go back to school, many of these sounds will suddenly be cut off for the majority of the day. Whenever your dog is left alone, the sound of human voices or music can be soothing. Try leaving slow (50-60 beats per minute) and relaxing music playing when the house is empty.
ENRICH THE “AT HOME” ENVIRONMENT
When your pets’ favorite play buddy heads back to school, their day can suddenly feel very empty. Rotating a selection of toys helps your dog or cat feel at home even when they are alone.
- Leave interesting and interactive toys and food puzzles out during the day to help your pet stay occupied
- Hide favorite pet treats around the house for your pet to discover while you are away
- Rubber Kongs or hard, hollow bones can be stuffer with a little peanut butter or cream cheese, and can even be frozen for a long-lasting treat
- Save a special toy that your pet really loves and have your children take it out just before they are ready to go out. Put it away again once the children come home so it remains the “special toy.”
Consider letting your dog socialize and play at doggy daycare some days while the house is empty. This will allow your dog to expend some energy, while being in good care and the company of others. If your dog does not enjoy playing with other dogs, there are doggy daycare facilities that offer private accommodations where your dog can play his favorite games one-on-one with a staff member.
It is important to re-connect with your pet at the end of a busy week. With school back in session, your dog may not get as much time playing with your family as during the care-free days of summer. Remember, even though your pet wasn’t at work or school all day, he still needs time to unwind. Consider activities like:
- Long walks at the park
- Lounging around on the couch
- Daily walk ,even as the days get shorter
- A weekend picnic
- A weekend hike
- A visit to a restaurant or establishment that allows dogs
- A special weekend brushing
Getting back into the school mentality is never easy for humans or dogs! It is a gradual process that requires patience and consistency. Considering the above tips will help all of your kids (the two and four legged ones) transition back into the school year smoothly.