It is almost back to school time! The change in routine and schedule can be disorienting for our pets. Here are some tips to help your canine and feline friends adjust to the most wonderful time of the year!
Practice Establishing a Routine
A week or two before school starts, start establishing a routine similar to the weekday back-to-school routine: walk your dog in the morning or spend some one-on-one time with your cat before sending the kids to school.
Start gathering together items that your dog or cat will associate with the kids leaving for school, such as backpacks, lunch boxes and jackets in the mornings. The goal of doing so is to allow your cat or dog to become used to these items being prepared in the morning, without everyone necessarily leaving for the school day. This type of training desensitizes your dog or cat to these school items, and helps disassociate them from long days spent alone. Give your dog or cat a special treat or a chin scratch for being calm around these back-to-school items!
Try to leave the home as calmly as possible. If goodbyes are loud and prolonged, it convinces Fifi or Fido that something catastrophic must be happening, and it makes it harder for pets to remain calm when family members leave, if only for a few hours. This does not mean you should not say goodbye to your pets! However, awareness of the effect of your own demeanour is important to your pet’s mental state while you are gone.
Practice crate training your dog; most dogs adapt very well to crate training, and the crate provides your dog with the sense that he or she has a place to be while you are gone. If your dog does not tolerate crate training, a special bed or area of the house helps provide the structure that dogs crave!
Return home with a similarly calm manner in terms of greeting Fifi or Fido. Greeting pets calmly after a long day away helps them associate your comings and goings with a calm mentality.
Provide extra attention at the end of the school day. Play with your dog or cat, or spend time doing another activity that they enjoy.
Doggie Daycare and Visits from Friends
Doggie daycare can be a wonderful option for pets who are young and active, or do not tolerate being home alone during the work and school day.
Ask a friend, family member or a neighbour to check in on your dog or cat during the day. Regardless of whether your dog likes walks, playtime or simply companionship your dog will look forward to these visits! Although cats are generally more independent, they benefit from these check-ins too.
Home Alone Activities
Animals react to music! Follow this link to an article on Mental Floss that discusses the effect of music on animals. Shelters often play classical music to help calm animals that are left alone. As such, some people leave on the radio to help soothe pets while family members are away.
Leaving on the television or radio can help ease stress due to a quiet home, by simulating the sound of human voices in a populated home.
Treat dispensing toys can be used for both dogs and cats, and this type of activity challenges the mind—helping pets to stay busy and not focus on the fact that they are home alone.
Hide kibble or treats around the home just before you leave . . . ask your pet to “go find it” and they will enjoy a fun scavenger hunt while the kids are away.