Now that the kids are heading back to school for long hours out of the day five days of the week, pets may start to feel lonely or experience separation anxiety. Theres no getting around the kids not attending school even if they have a few “sick” days to play with the dog, but their are ways we can help them transition. Although nothing is sweeter than seeing their happy, furry tails wagging at the window waiting for their buddies to come home. Below, are five tips that pet owners can do to help address separation anxiety in their pets:
- Get your pet into a routine. Pets love routine because it makes them feel secure. During the summer, kids are always around to make things entertaining and exciting for their pets. When they suddenly disappear, some cats and dogs will feel sad and confused while others may experience real separation anxiety. Thus, it’s important that pet owners help get their pet acclimated to the change by replacing the old schedule with a new one, such as allocating time to play with them after work or keeping a consistent schedule when coming and going from the house.
- Burn off some energy. Some pets deal with separation anxiety by becoming destructive (e.g. howling, chewing on objects or other parts of the house). A great way to keep your dog from doing this is by taking them on a walk in the morning before you leave the house to help burn off some of that extra energy. For cats, consider playing with them at night as well – whether it’s making them chase a feather wand or play with a ball.
- Create an interactive environment: Back-to-school season is a great time to buy your pet a new, interactive toy to play with. This will help mentally stimulate them and keep them occupied during the day when the kids are away at school. For dogs, chew toys are a way for them to relieve their anxiety, frustration and boredom. For cats, creating a play area where they can be entertained even when you’re not home, can help ease the separation anxiety. This can include having things like scratching posts or cat furniture in your home.
- Turn up the tunes and start with baby steps. Try leaving some soothing music on at your home while everyone is out of the house. The music will help drown out distracting noises that your dog may mistakenly associate with the kids coming home. Some animal shelters have even found that playing calming music helps the pets in their facilities relax. Additionally, get your pets comfortable with noises that may indicate your departure. For example, jingle your car keys occasionally and practice opening and closing the door to get them accustomed to noises that could increase anxiety.
- Spend time with your pet. It’s important to remember that while you may have had a long day, your pet may have been sitting at home feeling lonely waiting for you to come home. Spending some quality time with your pet at the end of the day is critical to helping keep them active and mentally sharp. It may be tough to fit into a busy work schedule, but be sure to build some interactive time – whether it’s a walk or cuddle session – to show your pets you care.