While you may not be ready to think about heading back to school, you should get a jump on preparing your pet for the new routine long before the school year’s first day. Chances are your pet has loved every minute of their summer filled with long walks, plenty of playtime, and constant companionship. To make the back-to-school transition easier on your pet, read our Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center-Willis team’s do’s and don’t to help them beat the back-to-school blues.
DO introduce your pet’s new routines gradually
Pets thrive on routine, and they need time to adjust when those routines change. Ease your pet into the upcoming schedule changes by introducing them gradually:
- Increase your pet’s time alone — Gradually increase the amount of time your pet spends alone by taking short trips away from the house. As your pet’s alone-time comfort level increases, gradually stay away slightly longer with each trip.
- Adjust your pet’s meal times — Your pet’s meal times and potty breaks will likely change when school begins, so now is the time to begin switching to these new meal times, and staggering your pet’s potty breaks.
- Set your alarm — Help your family and your pet adjust to the school year’s early mornings by setting your alarm to wake up at the same time as when school begins.
DON’T make a fuss when leaving your pet
Pets pick up on our emotional cues, so resist over-the-top emotional displays when leaving your pet for the day and returning home. Instead, stay calm and matter-of-fact when leaving or returning to your house, which will benefit your pet, who will be less anxious for hellos and goodbyes. In addition, you can desensitize your pet to departures and returns by gathering your keys and bags, and heading for, but not opening, the door. By practicing this ploy from time to time, your pet becomes less likely to associate the door with your absence.
DO keep your pet engaged while they are alone
During the summer, your pet stays entertained while spending time with you and your family. But when the school schedule resumes and your pet is home alone, they can feel stressed by the sudden decrease in companionship and stimulus. Without adequate mental stimulation and physical exercise, your pet may turn to destructive habits. To keep your pet busy and entertained when they are home alone, place their favorite toys around the house before you leave for the day so they spend time staking them out. Also, ensure your pet has plenty of interactive toys for mental stimulation.
DON’T forget to exercise your pet
No matter how busy your back-to-school schedule, make time to exercise your pet. Allowing your pet to get some physical exercise before you leave for the day can alleviate their stress and burn energy, helping them relax. If you are unable to exercise your pet during the day, consider asking a friend or pet sitter to walk your pet.
DO consider pet day care
If you have concerns about your pet staying home alone all day, consider a pet day care facility, where they can socialize with other animals and people while burning energy as they play all day. Most pet day care facilities have livestream cameras, so you can check in on your pet throughout the day. If you are unable to afford sending your pet to day care every day, talk with the staff to negotiate discounted rates and packages that allow you to bring your pet for a few days each week.
DON’T miss your pet’s separation anxiety signs
You cannot always predict how your pet will react to your family’s schedule change, especially if your pet has never spent long periods at home alone. Keep an eye on your pet’s behavior as you introduce new routines, and when leaving and returning home. Consult your veterinarian if your pet shows any of these separation anxiety signs:
- Excessive licking
- Excessive scratching
- Increased barking
- Increased whining
- Urinating or defecating inside (for dogs), or outside the litter box (for cats)
- Attempting to escape through windows, doors, or crates
DO spend quality time with your pet
Back-to-school time can be busy and stressful, but remember to spend quality time with your pet. Your time and attention mean the world to them. Set aside time each day for a quick cuddle session or a game of fetch to ensure your pet feels as important to you as you are to them.
We all struggle trying to adapt to the back-to-school schedule changes, and by following these tips, you can help your pet more easily adjust to the transition. Contact our Stone Ridge Veterinary Center Willis team to schedule your pet’s back-to-school wellness exam—and remember to enjoy the rest of your summer.