Whether you are counting the minutes until the kids head back to school, or wishing summer vacation could last forever, now is the time to start preparing the family for the new school-year routine. Your pet will definitely need time to adjust to the schedule changes. Many pets get the back-to-school blues, as their family becomes busier, and they spend more time home alone. Our Little Animal Hospital team put together these do’s and don’ts to help you prepare your pet for the new back-to-school schedule and to help make the new school year routine go smoothly.
DO give your pet plenty of time to adjust
Your family’s schedule changes drastically when the kids head back to school. The alarm goes off earlier, mornings become rushed, and everyone must be out the door at a designated time. This is in sharp contrast to the laid-back, see-where-the-day-takes-us kind of summer mornings. Everyone has difficulty adjusting to a new strict schedule, especially your pet, and we recommend you introduce your pet to these new routines gradually instead of waiting until the school year’s first day. Long before the school year starts, gradually implement your pet’s new schedule, including:
- Meal times — Because you will be waking and leaving home earlier in the day, your pet’s morning meal will be earlier. Start feeding them at the time they will be eating during the school year. Ensure your family knows who is responsible for feeding your pet every morning and evening.
- Outside time — Your pet has likely become accustomed to spending a lot of time outdoors during the summer, but they may not have midday outside access during the school year. To help your pet adjust, now is the time to start letting them out to relieve themselves less frequently.
- Time alone — Many pets stay home alone for extended periods during the school year. To prepare your pet to be home alone, practice leaving the house more often, gradually increasing your time away.
DON’T cut back on your pet’s walks
During the summer, you easily fit in your dog’s walks because you have fewer time commitments. Remember, your dog’s daily walks are more important during the school year so they can burn off extra energy, and feel calm when home alone. Designate a family member or two to walk your pet in the morning and in the afternoon. If you are pressed for time, a game of fetch in the yard is good exercise, too.
DO consider a pet sitter
Depending on their age, breed, and health status, most dogs can stay at home alone comfortably for four to six hours before needing to go outside to relieve themselves. Cats can generally stay home alone for longer periods if they have access to food and water. If your dog will be home alone for an extended period, hiring a pet sitter is a great option. Or, enroll your dog in day care, where they can play all day with other pups, and the dedicated staff provides them human companionship.
DON’T fuss over hellos and goodbyes
Your pet is smart and knows you will be leaving home for the day when you grab your keys and head for the door. Avoid showering your pet with attention or hugs—you may find it difficult to leave or return home without acknowledging your pet, but they will feel much calmer if you don’t make a fuss.
DO play some background sounds for your pet
During the summer, your house is likely full of sounds, but when the house is empty, and your pet is surrounded by silence, they can feel unsettled. Your pet may be soothed by relaxing background music or the sound of human voices on the radio or television when they are home alone. In addition, leave your pet interactive toys and some tasty treats, such as a xylitol-free peanut butter-filled Kong. Your pet will be so distracted that they will forget you are away from home.
DON’T have a back-to-school pet emergency
The food in backpacks and lunchboxes can be harmful to a foraging pet. Install designated backpack hooks to keep the temptation out of your pet’s reach, and remind your kids to empty their lunchboxes promptly when they arrive home. The following items can be toxic to your pet if ingested:
- Gum, which may contain xylitol
- Macadamia nuts
- Moldy food
- Cold packs
Everyone needs time to adjust to the new back-to-school schedule changes, but some pets may struggle more than others. If your pet exhibits separation anxiety signs, such as excessive barking, destructive behavior, or attempting to escape, contact our team at Little Animal Hospital to discuss treatment options.