The hurried rush of back-to-school and shorter days means families are spending more time focused on school work and active schedules. As a result, the change in routine can be confusing for pets. Instead of going for walks and playing in the yard, their companions suddenly head out the door without them.
Dogs especially are creatures of habit and it is important to establish clear rules and a set schedule. With the help of North Shore Animal League of America, Dr. Ernie Ward and Pure Life 4 Pets, we've provided the best tips to ensure your pups will be happy and well adjusted.
Avoid Anxiety. Changes in routine can also lead to anxiety in many dogs. Following some of these tips may help alleviate the stress caused by the changes that happen when it’s time to go back to school.
Transition Time. About a week before the kids return to school, begin getting your dog used to their absence:
- Leave your dog inside early in the morning to simulate school time. You only need to leave them for thirty 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-producing cues prior to school starting.
Set a Routine and Responsibilities. 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 and caring pet owners.
Turn on Some Tunes. During the summer the 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 to 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 when he’s alone.
- Leave interesting and interactive toys and food puzzles out during the day helps your pets 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 stuffed 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.”
Doggy Daycare. 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, doggy daycares like Morris Animal Inn offer private daycare where your dog can play his favorite games one-on-one with a staff member.
Quality Time. 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 that 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 walks, even as the days get shorter
- A weekend picnic
- A weekend hike
- A visit to a restaurant or establishment that allows dogs
- A special weeknight 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.