Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this info, free of charge,from Purina, for blog posting purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it
Well your kids are off back to school and all is going good so far (hopefully) for them.
But what about your dog and cat?
I bet you didn't think about how it wold affect them, did you?
I was recently able to speak to Dr Kurt Vwho is a veterinarian for Purina (and a Cornell Vet School alumni! Miss Grace is obsessed with their Veterinarian School program on TV right now), with their , to see how Back to School affects the animals that help keep us calm and centered!
I know you're saying, but my dog/cat is fine, they just roll with the tide or river that comes along to carry the day (sorry bad Alabama joke in there, Ole Miss stomped Alabama this weekend). But have they really? Have you noticed any of these behaviors since the kiddos went back to school?
1. Excessive barking
2. Change in appetite
3. Improper urinating/defecation (i.e. not using the box, going inside)
4. Excessive chewing/other destructive behavior like digging
5. Pacing or excessive walking in one area (or sitting on the sofa and looking forlorn most of the day).
If you started thinking, hey those are similar to separation anxiety you remember seeing in your 2 yr old, you are on the right path in thinking about your pet's emotional health!
And separation anxiety in pets is more common than you think- 20% of the 80 million dogs in this country are affected by it, per reports by veterinarians and owners. And the number increases as dogs get older. Which really does make sense, if you think about it! Like our toddlers, our animals are creatures of habit, and their Summer routine has been pretty blissful.
But when our daily rhythms change, and the kids go from being home all day and playing with the animals, to suddenly being gone all day, Fido and Fluffy get into a funk, and get anxious, because they're animals. They don't understand like we do, that the kids will be back soon. All they know is that their buddies are off again, and they're left alone. And like a rampaging toddler, they are gonna find ways to make you notice THEM!
So how to help your 4 legged family members cope with back to school?
Dr Kurt has some great ideas, some of which we've already been implementing with great success, so they DO work!
1. Help your animals get back into the new routine. Dogs especially can get a little OCD when it comes to when they get fed, when they get walked, etc. So start a routine and stick with it. If the new routine is to feed them in the morning, with a 10 minute walk before school, then don't divert from them. While changing things up is good for humans, it leads to more confusion for your pets. Like your toddler, pets crave the comfort and security that routine gives them.
2.Allocate time and stick to it. The kids especially need to give their pets their time for play, and even just petting. Your dog has missed their play buddies and needs that play time too! So let the kids come home, change clothes and go play with the dog for 15-20 minutes, before starting their homework. This helps them reconnect, makes you dog happy and allows the kids to get some of the wigglies out, before setting down to boring homework. If you've got a lot of homework, then split it, let the kids change, have a snack, do 15 minutes of homework, then take a break and spend time with the dog. Again, they key is to stick to a pattern, so your dog knows they will be getting one on one attention. A by product of this is the old proverb 'teach an old dog a new trick'- by having the kids work with your dog, and teach them something new, they get their brain active and learning, and are stimulated and feel special. then it adds to the routine and fun time, and everybody wins!
3. Acknowledge your pets presence -have the kids spend some quiet down time with your pets too. Even if its only 5 minutes when they come home. A belly rub and an' I love you', can make anybody's day brighter. Especially if the kids are changing and having to run off to practice or an activity. You animal needs to know they were missed and to be acknowledged. Miss Grace has been doing this with Marley- she brings her a special treat right after changing clothes, and then comes back in for homework, and then after, goes back out with her. It has worked SO well that dog was over back to school in about 1 week!
4. Keep your pets occupied. Just like how a bored toddler is going to get into anything and everything, because they can, so will your pets.Your pets are by themselves for 6-9 hours. they are bored senseless. So they need something to engage their brains. A great idea is to give them a new toy for the day, while the kids are gone. Especially with cats, you can give them a different toy each day, in a rotating cycle, and they will think yo are da bomb, for being so generous. Especially a toy, that makes them work, aka spend time, to get a treat out. A busy pet is one that isn't going to be destructive! You can find more tips and ideas for training and toys on the Purina website!
5. Music calms the beast- just like how your toddler doesn't want to lie down in silence, your pets are alone for 6-8 hours of quiet, and it freaks them out a bit, so of course they are going to bark at any little sound! They have gotten used to the pandemonium of sounds from the kids over the Summer. Back to School is' library' quiet to them! SO put on some tunes. Studies have found classical music works wonders to soothe your pets, by providing a calming background noise.
And if your child has gone off to college and left their pet with you (Congrats! You're now a pet-grandparent!), remember technology is a wonderful thing- Facetime, Video and Video calling, all allow your child (adult) and pet time together! l
And remember your pets MISSED you- they will want to follow you, sit on top of you, and pretty much just say 'I missed you', and it's important for us as parents to remind our kids to think how they feel, and allow some special time for their pets too!
Most of the separation anxiety issues with your pets should gradually decrease, and cease, generally within 2-4 weeks. If after that you notice the behaviors not stopping, you may want to see a veterinarian, as the symptoms could be indicators or medical issues, like feline diabetes. And if you're not sure, better to see an expert to make sure!
I hope some of these tips can help you if you're facing a pet with separation anxiety!