The pencils are sharpened and the sandwiches are packed — everybody is slowly getting back into their school year routine.
There’s just one family member who may not adjust as easily to being left in an empty house while everyone’s away: your fur baby.
The school year can mean less people at home and sometimes a little sadness for your pet who will be left behind to hold down the fort. The ASPCA shared with us their best tips for helping your pet handle these changes.
1. Offer plenty of exercise before and after school.
Since time with your pet may now be limited to mornings and evenings or afternoons, it’s important to make the most of that time together and give pets plenty of exercise. “Your pet may be used to midday summer play sessions or walks,” says ASPCA Behavior Specialist, Rachel Maso.”Ramping down that exercise and interaction due to the school day schedule change could leave your pet with pent up energy. Scheduling times that fit your new fall schedule can help your pal adjust.”
2. Leave toys to keep your pet busy while you’re gone.
You may be away, but your pal can still play! Pick up some cool toys — there are some real brain teasers out there — that will challenge your pet throughout the day.
“Interactive feeding toys or healthy chews can help keep your dog or cat active and engaged while you are gone,” Maso says. “For dogs, toys like Kongs stuffed with their favorite food and then frozen can provide entertainment and satisfy any foraging needs. For cats, interactive toys provide playtime even when you’re not at home.”
3. Hire a dog walker or pet sitter.
Some dogs need a potty break during the day, or simply a friend to ease their anxiety about being alone, so consider hiring someone to help out. “For some pets, a visit midway through the day by a dog walker or sitter could provide the exercise and engagement they may be missing in the new school schedule,” she says. Additionally, if separation anxiety is an issue for your pet, a professional can help. “If you believe that your dog is experiencing distress directly related to being left alone, it might be time to consult a certified professional dog trainer,” Maso adds.
4. Establish your new routine and give them time to adjust.
Just as you may need some time to adjust to your new fall schedule — hitting the snooze button multiple times may be a serious symptom of that — so does your pet. “Pets are very routine oriented,” Maso explains. “When your current established routine is about to be disrupted, it could be a good idea to slowly shift to that new routine over a period of a few weeks. That could mean getting up and leaving around school time or adjusting their play schedule.”
She suggests making your leaving the house something positive, rather than negative. “Make sure to always leave them with something engaging to enjoy to ensure they have positive associations with your departure,” Maso adds.
5. Leave a radio or television on.
“This auditory or visual stimulation can help keep your pet engaged throughout the day,” she says. “Make sure to choose something that will be relaxing rather than a program that may hype them up while you’re gone!”
6. Adopt another pet.
If you think your pet would enjoy the companionship of another animal, the ASPCA recommends doing this well in advance of returning to work or school. “While adopting another animal is not a solution to separation anxiety, some pets can benefit from having a pal to keep them company during the day,” Maso says. “If you’ve already been thinking about bringing a sibling home, make sure your household is prepared to be fully committed to the added costs, time and resources of taking care of a new family member.” Learn more about pet adoption, click here.
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