It’s that time again. Back to school. While kids’ parents may be rejoicing, chances are good their pets are not. In fact, it is quite possible that the family dog, or cat, could be suffering from emotional and/or behavioral depression. After all, summer was full of activity and playtime. Suddenly, the house is quiet … or is it?
Excessive vocalization is one of the signs your pet is reacting badly to this change of routine. Loud meows, howling, barking and whining are commonly heard echoing across empty rooms that just days before were bustling with activity. But barking and meowing are not the only changes you may see in your pet’s behavior in the weeks after the kids head back to school. Other signs your pet may be experiencing a bit of separation anxiety include:
• Soiling in the house (in extreme cases, your dog make even eat his excrement)
• Scratching (furniture, carpets, doors … even himself, causing stress-related bald spots)
• Trying to escape
• Change in appetite
If your dog stays in a fenced in yard, keep a close eye on him. It is common for dogs to try to escape so they can follow the kids to school, or at least go in search of them. Watch for digging or attempts to jump over the fence. Housebound dogs may look for means for escape as well, so it is important to keep windows secured.
Any of these behavioral issues tend to be worse in pets adopted from shelters because, in most cases, they have a fear of abandonment.
Okay, so now that you know what can happen with your pet when your kids are off at school, you need to know what to do to help ease your pet’s anxiety.
• First, do not make a big deal about the kids leaving in the morning. If they act anxious or concerned with their pets, the pets will react accordingly. They are going off to school. No big deal. That is the attitude you need to convey to your dog or cat.
• Give your pet something to look forward to every morning. Reserve a special treat that is only given to your dog or cat when your kids are about to walk out the door. Using a treat-hiding toy, that will occupy your pet’s attention for a while, is an excellent option.
• Work an extra 15 minutes into the morning routine to allow for some playtime or a lively walk.
• When the kids return home in the afternoon, it is often best for them to ignore their pet for 10 – 15 minutes. After this initial period, it is time for fun! Vigorous activity is in order. Dogs, in particular, have pent up energy at the end of the day. If it is released immediately after the kids get home, things can get out of hand and your dog may actually hurt someone unintentionally in his exuberance.
Transitional periods can be tough … for both humans and their furry friends. But with a little bit of discipline and planning, everyone can adjust quickly and get acquainted with a brand new routine.