Getting the kids ready for school, helping with homework, meal planning for the week, rush hour traffic, daily chores… your family home can become quite hectic once the school year is in full swing. But wait, where does your pet fit into all of this madness?
Some pets can become restless, develop separation anxiety and even experience depression during this busy time of the year. Signs to look out for include inappropriate digging and chewing, being more vocal than usual by barking, howling, whining and meowing, and relieving themselves in places they normally wouldn’t. By sticking to a routine, you’ll be able to give your pet the attention they’re used to, while allowing them to cope with your new schedule change.
Here are some tips to ease Fido and Fluffy into a routine during the school year:
- Transition your pet into your new routine, bit by bit. Getting into a new groove can take some time, so the earlier you prepare your pet for what’s to come, the easier it will be once it’s time for actual change. Set aside some time a few days before changing your schedule to gradually increase the amount of time your pet will need to spend alone, ideally around the time you will need to leave the house. A gradual change is also best to switch dinnertime or walking routines – change them slowly, for example, a half hour at a time, to avoid causing undue anxiety or shock.
- Make sure your pet gets enough exercise. Take the dog out for a morning walk while you walk your children to the bus stop, or take an evening walk to the dog park where your dog can run and burn some energy. Are you a jogger? Take 5-10 minutes before you head out and bring your pup for a quick walk (you’ll need to warm up anyway!), or if your dog is used to his daily run, bring him along with you. Are you a cat parent? Playing with a laser pointer or setting up some boxes for your kitty to climb in and out of can be a good source of exercise.
- Keep your pet distracted during long days at home while everyone is at work and in school. Leaving the radio on during the day can give an empty house some life. An interactive toy, such as a food and treat-stuffed toy, is a good way for your pet to kill time until you come home. A favourite toy or blanket can also provide some comfort and distraction.
- Give your pet extra TLC during downtime. Watching some evening shows with the family? Take this opportunity to brush your pet, play with them, or simply cuddle up and give them a good scratch in their favourite spot. Are the kids taking the bigger part of your downtime? Get your kids involved by assigning them the task of brushing your pet or playing with them on a regular basis. Not only will this give you a bit of a break, these tasks can teach them about the basic responsibilities of caring for a pet.
- Bring your dog with you, whether it’s for a family dinner, a brunch with friends, or a play date with the kids. There are cafés, restaurants and terraces that allow you to bring pets, so a little research before booking your next gourmet outing can really pay off. Some people might not feel comfortable with having your pet come along, so make sure you ask if it’s ok with your entourage. Taking your pet along with you will reduce the time your pet spends alone. In addition, allow your pet to interact with other people, to experience new places and to become familiar with other pets and children, so that your pet can develop good habits in different social settings.
It’s easy and quite inevitable to get lost in the back to school turmoil. Including all members of the family in daily or weekend activities will help everyone enjoy this stressful, yet colorful time of the year.