It is back-to-school season which means families are spending more time focused on school work and schedules. As a result, the change in routine can be confusing for pets, especially dogs. Instead of going for walks and playing in the yard, their companions are suddenly busy, pre-occupied and heading out the door without them.
Dogs are creatures of habit and it is important to establish clear rules and a set schedule. Here are some helpful tips to help ensure your pet will adjust well to the family changing schedule.
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 lunchbags 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 schedules and 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 Music. During the summer the house is full of noise, activity, etc.! When the kids go back to school the house becomes quiet 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 and relaxing music playing when no one is at home.
Enrich Pet’s Home Environment. When your pets’ companion(s) head(s) back to school their day can suddenly feel very empty.
- Leave interesting/interactive toys and food puzzles out during the day as they will help your pet stay occupied.
- Hide favorite pet treats around the house for your pet to discover while you are away.
- 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 couple of times a week while the house is quiet and empty. This will allow your dog to expend some energy, while being in good care and the company of others.
Quality Time. It is important to re-connect with your pet at the end of a busy day and week. With school back in session, your pet(s) 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/she still needs time to unwind. Consider activities like:
- Long walks at the park,
- Lounging around on the couch and playing with the pet
- Daily walks, even as the days get shorter
- A weekend picnic or a hike
- A special weeknight brushing
Getting back into the school mentality is never easy for humans or pets, especially dogs! It is a gradual process that requires patience and consistency. We hope the above tips will help all of your kids (the two and four legged ones) transition back into the school year smoothly. We are here to help you help your pet!