Now that kids are going back at school, how is the family pet doing?
Summers are full of play and activities and plenty of togetherness with the family and the family pet!
Now that kids are back at school, there can be a big void in the household for the family pet. This may sound crazy, but it can explain the changes you might be seeing in your pet.
Talk to them as if they were human, as they understand more than we think they do. Communicating with your pet is even more appropriate if you have a child who has gone off to college. The pet saw the boxes and luggage, but may not comprehend what is happening and why their special pal is suddenly gone.
Many pets, especially dogs, can have a tough transition.
Know your pet and watch for any signs of anxiety, lethargy or even depression. Although many cats cherish the quiet time, many others can also be affected by this transition.
Here are a few suggestions and ideas that might help.
Use this time to train your pet on a new skill or new activity that is different from their normal routine, one that separates the connection to the kids and uses their brains in an engaging way with you.
Spend the same amount of time each day, at a certain time, doing something that involves just the two of you.
Distract them with play, fill a kong with food, try a new game or toy, use a puzzle filled with food. Stimulate the body and the brain! And who doesn’t love to hide a treat to see how long it will take them to find the goodies!
Many a pet can be entertained by watching “Animal Planet” or the “Discovery Channel”. My friend’s dog wouldn’t miss an episode of “Nature” on PBS! Even a radio with people talking or playing music can help fill the house with the ‘noise’ they are used to.
Ultimately, this is best handled before school starts, but realizing that that’s not always possible, try some of these suggestions:
Give your pet a treat or something special before you leave the house, reinforce the positive. And don’t just leave, spend a few minutes talking to them before you go and tell them you will be back and give them a time frame. For example: “I’m going to run errands and I will be back in two hours”; “I’m going to work, so watch the house until I get home in 8 hours”; “The kids will be back in time for dinner”.
Remind the kids how much the pet misses them and have them spend dedicated time with the pet when they get home. Make sure their busy days and activities don’t prevent them from remembering the pet! Remind them how much fun they all had in the summer together and that no one wants to feel forgotten, and certainly not the furry family member!
Have the kids spend ‘extra’ time with the pet, a longer walk, more toys, lots of positive attention and affection.
It’s important not to reprimand your pet if they start to behave in ways that are disruptive. Distract them, be firm but caring, they are just looking for your attention!
Bring the dog along if you drive the kids to school, sports or activities. Make them feel a part of the adventure and they are less likely to feel abandoned!
Try putting a kid’s shirt or blanket by the doggy bed or favorite place so they can pick up that familiar scent. Leave the TV or radio on for them. Light, soothing music or talk radio is better than heavy metal music (for all of us!).
If you have the time and can find the fit that’s appropriate for you pet, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities for you and your pet. Consider a children’s hospital, nursing home, memory care or assisted leaving facility, military rehab programs that look for pets to help with healing and love!
What do you do? We would love to hear and share some of your ideas!