By: Karen Fazio, CDBC

Back to school is an exciting time for most families, but not always for their pets. Sudden changes in routines, withdrawal of attention, and turning back clocks can cause some pets to exhibit unwanted issues.  These issues can include depression, separation anxiety and destructive behaviors.

Luckily, there are some things we can do, 1-2 weeks before school starts, that may help your pet(s) adjust to such a big change in their schedule and routine.

Slowly introduce new schedules and routines. For example, getting the kids up, in the morning and going to bed earlier. Pets rely on routines, just like we do.  This can be equally as helpful in helping children adjust to upcoming changes in their schedule.

Introduce brief durations away from home. Prime opportunities for alone time ideas include planning a few brief trips to take the kids shopping for school clothes and supplies.

Provide mental stimulation. Food puzzles, Kongs and other thinking games can help train cats and dogs to be more comfortable with independence. They can also serve as handy distractions when needed.

Increase exercise. Take dogs for extra walks or engage them in other outdoor activities that provide them with exercise. Introduce an indoor climbing tree for cats (cat tree).  Engage cats in hunting games with a lure.  These types of activities can also serve as rewards and distractions for pets.

Avoid punishment. If the pet soils the house or misbehaves in any way avoid scolding or punishing them.  This can make behaviors worse.  Instead, do your best to ignore the situation and reward the pet with praise and treats when they demonstrate a positive behavior.  This will condition your pet to focus on the positive behavior that it gets rewarded for.

Day-care.  Consider sending your pet back to school with Day-care.  Day-care facilities for pets keep them engaged during the day while you are at work or the kids are back at school.  It serves as another great way to keep pet’s active and distracted when they might be missing you or the kids.