Around the middle of the summer, stores start filling with back-to-school merchandise. We spend weeks making sure that our children are prepared with all the tools they need to return to their autumn routine, but what about our furry family members? For pets, back-to-school can be a very confusing time, as a house that was once full of the people they love suddenly becomes quiet and empty with no explanation.
Here are some ways to help make back-to-school easier from a pet’s perspective!
Before School Starts
In the weeks leading up to school, try bringing out lunch boxes, backpacks, and other items that your pet may associate with you going away. By leaving them around the house, your dog or cat will be less likely to become anxious when they appear before everyone leaves for school.
In the mornings, consider adjusting your routine so that all the “fun” parts happen at the end. For example, try to bring the dog for a morning walk as the very last thing you do. This way, instead of sadly watching you get dressed, pack your bags, and put on your shoes, he will be excited and eager for you to finish getting ready so he can go outside and expend some of his built-up energy. Additionally, giving your pets a special puzzle as you leave quietly, such as a hollow toy stuffed with treats or frozen wet food, will keep their minds busy throughout the day and give them something positive to associate with you walking out the door.
When everyone gets home, encourage them to enter calmly without getting your pet too excited, which may reinforce the fear of your absence. Once everyone has settled in, some playtime or a walk will be greatly appreciated after a long day alone.
Remember that it may take time for your pet to make the adjustment and that anxiety and boredom can trigger destructive behaviour. Be patient and try to think of ways to enrich your pet’s day while you’re away, such as a visit from a dog walker or adding a bird feeder near a window with a perch. With time, your pet can learn to enjoy and count on the routine that comes with a new school year… even though our little fur-less family members may not feel the same!
Dr. I. Wonder is here to answer your questions regarding your furry family members. If you have a question, email it to us at danielle@NeighbourhoodPetClinic.com. Our team at Neighbourhood Pet Clinic will tap into their collective experience to answer your various questions.