The hurried rush of back-to-school and shorter days means families are spending more time focused on school work and active schedules. That may mean leaving your furry friends at home alone more often. Now is an important time to incorporate your recently adopted dog, cat, puppy or kitten in the family’s new routine.
Many families adopt a pet during the summer months because it provides the opportunity to spend the extra time needed for training and bonding with their new family member. Puppies and kittens will often develop lifelong emotional bonds with their new owners during this valuable time.
As a result, the change in routine when children return to school can be confusing to a new family pet. Instead of going for walks and playing in the yard, their companions suddenly don backpacks and head out the door without them.
Pets are creatures of habit and it is important to establish clear rules and a set schedule to ensure they will be happy and well adjusted. This is especially true of dogs, because they tend to depend on their owner’s attention more so than cats.
Here are a few helpful tips from our Pet Behavior specialists to help young animals cope with back-to-school schedules and your children’s shift in attention:
- Work with your children to set and follow a daily routine that works for their lifestyle all year long. The schedule should include feeding, walks to one spot for housebreaking (toileting), walks off the property (for socialization) and appropriate play at approximately the same time everyday. Establishing a routine your pet can depend on will help them weather any changes that may occur.
- Save a special toy that your pet really loves and have your children give it to them just before they are ready to go out. Put it away again once the children come home so it remains the “special toy”.
- Hide favorite pet treats around the house for your pet to discover while you are away. Rubber Kongs or hard hollow bones can be stuffed with a little peanut butter or cream cheese and can even be frozen for a long lasting treat!
- Encourage your children to come home right away to care for their pet’s needs and jump into a fun game of “fetch” or “cat and mouse” before starting other after school activities.
- Plan fun after school activities for your children to do for and with their new pet – build a cat tree, plan a family game of soccer or go for a hike together. Encourage children to spend quiet time reading out loud to their pets and recording it so it can be played back while the animal is home alone.
These are just a few of the fun and pet-friendly activities you and your children can do to help keep your pet happy and content. Don’t hesitate to write your own back-to-school plan and get creative. Ask your children for their ideas, too!