By Kim Saunders
This article originally appeared on the Petfinder blog.
Back-to-school season is a big change for your kids and your pets.
September means back-to-school season, when textbooks replace beach days and barbecues. Keeping with the scholastic spirit, we have a question for all you pet parents: Did you know pets can experience separation anxiety when kids head off to school?
If you notice behavioral changes in your pet — chewing on items that smell like their companion and going to the bathroom in inappropriate places — he (or she) may have a case of the back-to-school blues. In particular, dogs who have had to change homes before being adopted into their current family may be more likely to develop separation anxiety.
Here’s a homework assignment for treating separation anxiety in pets:
- Start early: If you have a new pet, you can begin anti-separation-anxiety training right away. Don’t make a big deal about leaving, and only leave him alone for short periods of time at first. When you come home, simply greet him and return to your routine.
- Promote independence: Both adults and children can actually over-bond with their pets by spending every moment with them. While your family should certainly show love and affection to your animal, remember that independence is healthy. Place your dog in a sit-stay or down-stay to keep him from following you and your family members around the house, and then praise him quietly when you return to the room he’s in.
- Invest in entertainment: Leave something to divert your pet’s attention when the family is at work and school, such as a pet-sitting video. Another great product is the Kong toy, which keep dogs busy as they search for the treats inside.
- Exercise with your dog before you leave: Ask your children to play or exercise with your dog before heading off to school. A tired dog is less likely to experience stress when you leave.
- Practice gradual departures: Collect your belongings and say your goodbyes, but only leave for a few minutes. Increase these training trips by five or 10 minutes at a time. After a couple of days, your pet should be comfortable being alone for a few hours.
Do you have your own tips for helping your dog cope with separation anxiety? Share them with us in a comment below!