As summer ends and the kids head back to school, it is important to think about the 4-legged children in your life too!
Dogs and cats need routines just like human children, and transitioning back to a different schedule — one that includes more alone time for them — can be tough.
The best way to avoid anxiety and possible behavioral issues is to have a plan in place to help your dogs and cats ease back into the fall and coming winter seasons.
By now you know when your kids will head back to school (if they haven’t already). With that in mind begin preparing about a week (or two) before departure date to help everyone adjust. Get up earlier as you do during the school year to help your pup adjust to the new schedule.
Try to keep the rest of your pet’s routine as normal as possible with regular walks and feeding times. If feeding times change during the school year, start adjusting to the new times a week or two before so they don’t feel too many changes all at once.
Days can feel long and lonely, especially for dogs, when they have been used to human companionship. A morning walk or playtime in the yard is good bonding time and will help your pup get out some energy.
During the summer the days are longer and more people are around, which means more play time, walk time, and fun time. Once the school year starts, dogs and cats spend more time alone and get less exercise. Make sure you are keeping up with your dog’s exercise needs.
Bored dogs can gain weight and develop behavioral issues; it is not uncommon for dogs to “act out” once the kids are gone all day. Dogs need exercise and mental stimulation, so be sure to keep them active even when schedules change. While cats have a reputation for laziness, they do need exercise and stimulation as well, so don’t overlook their need for playtime.
A morning and afternoon walk or appropriate play time in the yard or park are often enough to keep man’s best friend happy. If you have a very active dog who needs lots of exercise and attention, consider a mid-day dog walker or doggy daycare to keep your pup busy and healthy.
Animals are sensitive, sentient creatures. They can sense changes and feel stress just like us, so remember to factor your faithful feline and canine companions into your changing routines.
Stressed, scared, or anxious animals can exhibit less than desirable behaviors — not because they are trying to be difficult, but because they are trying to express themselves. Stressed animals can bark, cry, pace, house soil, or becomes destructive.
While it would be easier If they could verbalize, if we pay attention, we can understand that they are communicating with us in different ways. Think about how you can minimize stress for your pet while you are away. Puzzle toys or food puzzle can provide great mental stimulation for bored dogs.
Soft music or quiet TV in the background can also help animals feel less alone; remember they are used to hearing noise and voices most of the stay. Stick with softer music choices and quiet television programs (think HGTV, not Cops) to help comfort. Remember, don’t select sounds that are overstimulating, which can agitate your pet.
Give Lots of Love
While it is harder for us humans, it is easier on our pets if we minimize the drama involved in our departures and arrivals.
When you leave in the am, make sure your pets are set up for the day, say goodbye, and go. Remind your kids that over-the-top farewells can actually upset your dog or cat who will anticipate that you are leaving. When you arrive home, greet your dogs and cats with love and affection without going over the top.
When you are home, make sure Fluffy and Fido get plenty of attention and tons of treats! Try to keep the rest of their routine as regular as possible so that they don’t feel overwhelmed. Ensure they are happy and safe by petting them, snuggling with them, playing with them, walking them, and talking to them.
Remember, slowly transitioning back to the school routine, rather than lots of changes happening all at once, can help reduce anxiety in dogs and cats who have gotten used to having their pals around all summer.