Helping your pets with the back-to-school blues
21st August, 2023
With the kids going back to school, the house is quiet again. But what about your dog, who was been used to all the energy and activity in the house while everyone was at home all summer?
Aren’t dogs the best!? Well, we can’t forget that going back to school is not just an adjustment for kids, but for dogs, too. The life these dogs have been enjoying over the last couple of months comes to a halt and then they are left in a house with less stimulation. It is important to remember that your pet will not understand a sudden change in routine. If your dog has spent time at home previously with no problems, then they may adjust back to ‘normal life’ without any problems. However, many pets will need preparation and time for this adjustment. It is important to ensure that you help your pet to make the transition back to spending time at home alone again. Dog owners should provide the necessary planning for their furry friends.
Our advice for making a gentle transition into the back-to-school routine:
- Start small- We recommend starting off slowly. Instead of starting with a full day, start by leaving the room for only a few minutes at a time. Slowly increase this to hours and then increase the number of hours. Make these changes gradually over several weeks if possible.
- Fresh air and exercise- Make sure your dog has been out for exercise or mentally stimulated before being left alone for a period of time. A tired and satisfied dog is less likely to experience separation anxiety.
- Start with a few changes- For indoor cats, it may be a good idea to build up time alone incrementally. This may be especially important if you have very sociable cats, or cats that are prone to stress associated with changes in everyday life. Try using toys and interactive games to provide mental stimulation and exercise.
- Reduce their stress response- Reducing an animal’s stress response will help them to cope with future changes. For example, there are various (non-medicated) supplements or pheromone sprays which can help to calm and relax your pet. These include a range of products by Feliway (cat only), Adaptil (dog only), It is recommended to start these ahead of the anticipated time that the pet will be alone.
Some animals show more signs of separation anxiety in response to recent changes more than others. Below are the signs of separation anxiety for dogs and cats, so you know what to look out for:
Signs of separation anxiety in dogs:
- Bark or howl for more than 30 seconds when you are leaving home
- Scratching or biting household objects
- Destructive behaviour that occurs only when the dog is home alone
- Over-grooming (excessively licking themselves)
- Changes in appetite
Signs of separation anxiety in cats:
- Urinates elsewhere than in the litter box
- Loud or increased vocalising
- Over-grooming (excessively licking themselves) or any other type of destructive behaviour
- Changes in appetite
- Becoming needy and contact-seeking
- Increased hiding
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
If you notice any of the signs above, it is a good idea to consult a qualified pet behaviourist or veterinary behavioural specialist to help you and your pet.