by MANDI BROADBENT, CSR
It’s Back-to-School season! While this school year may look a little different than years past, households across America are still thrust into the familiar chaos of preparing for their child’s return to learning. Schedule shifts, e-learning, sporting practices, social activities, and the general hurried rush that comes with this major change in your family’s schedule is rough on everyone in the home. And, as it often happens with big changes, your pet’s normal schedule can often become lost or confusing as everyone settles into a new routine. Instead of afternoon walks and play time in the park, their companions are suddenly unavailable, or not home at all.
Our domesticated animals are creatures of habit, especially our canine friends. Those “back to school blues” can be a real bummer.
For a happy and compliant critter, it is important to establish clear rules and a set schedule. With help from North Shore Animal League of America, Pure Life 4 Pets, and Dr. Ernie Ward, Lincolnshire Animal Hospital wants to give you some handy tips to ensure that your pet won’t feel left behind.
1. ANXIETY – AVOID IT.
Even the most happy-go-lucky dog can get anxiety from shifts in their environment. The quick changes in routine and sudden separation from loved ones can lead many dogs to get pretty stressed out. But it doesn’t have to be like that. A week before the kiddos return to school, we recommend starting to prepare your pet for your daytime absence:
- Leave your dog inside early in the morning to simulate “school time”. You only need to leave them for 30 minutes or so. Let them know the long, lazy summer mornings are coming to an end by avoiding those late morning walks, too.
- Start getting out the lunchboxes, laptops, and other items your dog associates with leaving or getting ready for school in the morning. The idea is to desensitize them to familiar anxiety inducing cues prior to classes starting.
- With so many schools participating in e-learning this year, it is a good idea to get your pet used to the idea of “quiet time” while laptops are open. If your pet gets anxious or excited when they hear voices through the computer, consider having your kid wear headphones to help reduce the noise.
- It might just be a good idea to keep your four-legged friend out of the room where e-learning is happening to reduce distractions, as well.
2. STICK TO A ROUTINE!
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 begin classes
- Extra attention and play when they finish learning for the day
- Exercise and “family time” in the evenings
Establishing a routine your pet can depend on will help them deal with the changes, too. This not only ensures your pets get the attention and love they deserve, but will also help your children learn how to be responsible, caring pet owners.
3. TURN ON SOME TUNES!
During the summer, your 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 (50-60 beats per minute) and relaxing music playing when the house is empty.
4. 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 even when they are alone.
- Leave interesting and interactive toys and food puzzles out during the day to help your pet 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.”
5. DOGGY DAYCARE
Consider letting your dog socialize and play at a 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, there are doggy daycare facilities that offer private accommodations where your dog can play his favorite games one-on-one with a staff member.
6. QUALITY TIME
It is super important to re-connect with your pet at the end of a busy week. With schools back in session, your dog may not get as much time playing with your family as during the care-free days of summer. Remember, 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 walk ,even as the days get shorter
- A weekend picnic
- A weekend hike
- A visit to a restaurant or establishment that allows dogs
- A special weekend brushing
Getting back into the school mentality is never easy for humans or dogs! It is a gradual process that requires patience and consistency for everyone to beat those back to school blues. Considering the above tips will help all of your kids (the two and four legged ones) transition back into the school year smoothly.
GIFS provided by Giphy