Summer is drawing to a close and kids are headed back to school. Many of us forget that this annual event creates a lot of stress and loneliness in our pets, who have become accustomed to having their tiny humans around during the summer.
Studies show that pets can become just as depressed as any human when their best friends return to school.
Watch for symptoms of depression in your pets. These can include:
Some pets may have no symptoms at all, while others may experience separation anxiety.
Remember that separation anxiety and depression look quite different in pets.
Separation anxiety occasionally manifests as “bad behavior”. Your dog may get into the garbage, claw at windows or bark incessantly if they are suffering from separation anxiety.
Depression often manifests as “down” behavior. For example, your pet may not want to get out of their beds in the morning, refuse to eat, or retreat into a quiet area.
You can help your pets cope with the Back to School Blues by being aware of potential problems and planning ahead. Here are some tips for making the transition as smooth as possible.
One of the best things you can do for you, your kids, and your pets is to begin changing their schedules about a month before school begins.
Get everyone up 10 minutes earlier than usual each morning, eat breakfast, then pack up and head out to run errands for a few hours (this emulates the time you’ll be away for school).
Start with short “away” times and increase the time as needed during the day. This will help both your kids and your pets to adjust to changing schedules.
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It’s not healthy for anyone to be “bored”. Staying busy is the key to surviving down time. This is one reason why your dog may need a job.
If your dogs pace nervously when you're away, there are plenty of options to distract them. Smart puzzle toys, frozen Kongs and interactive chews can give your dog other things to focus on.
While you’re in the home (meaning you can supervise), get them on a schedule that coordinates with the times your kids would normally be eating breakfast. This will help your pets equate the kids “pre-leaving” time with a fun activity.
An intense round of fetch in the morning followed by a long evening walk can go a long ways towards alleviating boredom and stress.
Take some morning time to burn off that excess energy, which will encourage them to nap while the kids are away to school.
After school, make sure your kids take their dogs out for another walk or game of fetch. This helps equate the return of your kids from school with a happy time.
Even something as simple as using an essential oil can help relax your dog. But, be sure to do your homework first.
Patience and planning is the key to making these work. Not every animal will respond to each fix and so it’s important to find the most effective one prior to needing it.
When the kids are away, your dog may not be as active. Keep a close eye on their weight and change their diet as needed.
There are also plenty of automatic feeders in which you can store small meals during the day) and others that sense which pet is near the food bowl and only feed any given meal to a specific pet, closing before the others can get to the food.
Remember that your dogs will miss you while you’re away - try to make the adjustments as easy as possible!