Friday, August 20, 2010
Once again, summer vacation is coming to an end for millions of kids around the country. Hopefully, pets were able to spend quality time with their little humans, but like all good things, summer vacation is over and children are off to another year of school. Suddenly, pets are left with nothing to do and boredom can set in. When kids go back to school, what's a bored pet to do with all the extra time they now have?
Parents are usually the only ones happy to see summer vacation end as kids prepare for their first day of class, a year older and hopefully wiser. Pets, on the other hand, have no idea what's going on. The first day of school is a flurry of activity as parents pry kids out of bed, which is way too early after a summer of sleeping in. Parents and kids rush out the door so everyone can get where they need to go on time. The house is quiet and the poor pet is still sitting in the middle of the kitchen, alone and confused. Where did everyone go?
Pets don't do well with sudden changes in their routine, and that's exactly what back to school means for them. Routines make them feel safe and comfortable. This is the time of year when pets can become confused, depressed or exhibit signs of separation anxiety when the routine they grew accustomed to all summer suddenly changes. Pets get used to certain things happening at a certain time, or close to it, each day. Once school starts, watch your pet for signs of boredom or separation anxiety. This can become a problem when a dog or cat who is used to having someone around most of the day is left on their own to figure out how to entertain themselves.
Sit down with your kids and talk to them about responsible pet ownership. This is a good time to remind them their four legged friends need attention from them after school. Pets don't require a lot of our time, and spending an extra fifteen minutes in the morning before school exercising the dog will help him get through the day until everyone is back home in the afternoon. A walk or playtime in the backyard after school will reassure a pet they haven't been forgotten.
Cats don't usually tear up furniture or leave claw marks on the front door, but even they can experience separation anxiety when it's time for kids to go back to school. Pets don't understand why the summer routine they grew accustomed to has suddenly changed, and bored pets can be destructive. Separation anxiety can turn into a serious behavioral problem if it's not dealt with. Establishing a new routine that includes all members of the family will help kids learn more responsibility in the care of their dog or cat, and help pets deal with their time home alone once they know what to expect before and after school.
Since a pet's routine will change when the kids head back to school, now is the perfect time to help ease them into a new schedule before they're left on their own. Start by having your kids give the dog or cat extra attention in the morning. Go for a walk, play tug a war or wiggle a toy for the cat. Once a pet realizes someone will return home to give them attention at a certain time, they have something to look forward to that can help them pass the hours. They may still be bored, but once a pet learns the new schedule, they're willing to wait for the kids get home from school.
Ask your kids to think of games or activities they can do with their pet to help them adjust to a new routine. Have the kids help put out toys for pets to entertain themselves with while everyone's gone. Hide treats around the house to give a bored pet something stimulating to do. Fill treat toys for dogs to chew on. If your dog stays in a crate when everyone's gone, start now and give him time to gradually adjust to spending more time in his crate.
Back to school means a new routine for the entire household and everyone needs to adjust, but it doesn't have to be upsetting for pets. With a plan in place and your kids help after school, pets can adjust to a new schedule knowing they haven't been forgotten. They can still spend time with the ones they love. It's just at a different time of the day.
Read more articles by Linda Cole