Back to school: how to help your pet adjust
- The return to work or school can trigger unwanted behaviors related to separation anxiety or stress in pets.
- Preparing your pet for being left alone can help ease the transition and help them to feel more comfortable when they are left alone.
- Training, pet sitters, creating the perfect rest area for your pet, and environmental enrichment are all things which can help your pet when they are left alone.
- It’s also important to find a way to meet your pet's needs in terms of bathroom breaks, food and water and checkups whilst you’re away.
The end of summer and the return to work or school usually bring some changes to our routines. But have you ever stopped to consider how these changes affect your pet?
Leaving our pets alone whilst we return to work or school, can provoke problems such as separation anxiety and stress. In this article we‘ll explain how you can help your pet adjust by discussing the following points:
- Why is it important to help your pet adjust to being alone?
- Establishing a routine and dog training.
- Pet sitters and monitoring systems.
- Creating the perfect rest area.
- Providing environmental enrichment.
- Facilitating your pet‘s needs even when you’re not at home.
Why is it important?
Picture this, you’ve spent the whole summer in the company of your pet, on hand to cater for their every need, maybe you’ve even taken them on holiday with you. Then, September comes around and suddenly, your four-legged friend is left alone for a proportion of the day without warning.
These kinds of events can trigger unhealthy behaviors in our pets, such as separation anxiety and stress. Aside from harming your pet´s well-being, separation anxiety can also take the form of destructive or un-social behavior such as chewing, vocalization, trying to escape, appetite loss and indoor soiling.
This means when you return from work, you might be greeted by some unwelcome surprises such as damage to your home, or noise complaints from neighbors. But don’t fear, there are some things you can do to help ease the transition to the ‘back-to-school’ period and reduce the risk of your pet becoming stressed or anxious.
How to help your pet adjust
As always, it’s better to prevent a particular problem, than to try and cure it, so in this section, we’ll explain some things to consider which can help your pet adjust to being home alone.
Preparing your pet
Depending on your pet's character, and the likelihood of them becoming distressed when being left alone, you can consider training them to be left alone.
This means starting early and building up the time they are left alone gradually by around 15 minutes each time. You might also want to try giving them treats or toys during the training as positive reinforcement.
Establishing a routine is also a good way to help your pet adjust to being left alone. For example, a few weeks before your pet starts to be left alone, gradually incorporate ‘alone time’ into their usual routine. This will enable them to get used to the change gradually and means they’re less likely to become stressed when you leave them regularly.
Our Lifetime Protection Membership Plus includes a year of unlimited access to Petcademy’s resource centre, to help you get started with a training plan based on your pet’s age, history and unique needs.
Regardless of whether your pet is trained to be left alone or not, it’s a good idea to ask someone to check on your pet, take them for a bathroom break and feed them. This could be a friend, family member or pet sitter and is important to keep them comfortable and identify emergency veterinary situations.
When it comes to pet sitters, our Lifetime Protection Membership includes a $30 Rover discount to help get you on your way!
If you want to keep a constant eye on your pet, you can also consider using a pet monitoring system with a camera which you can view on your phone. This is not a substitute for someone physically being with your pet, but it may give you peace of mind.
You can read more about pet sitters in our article ´Pet boarding, pet sitting, pet daycare: what´s best for you?´.
Creating the perfect rest area
Vets always recommend that your pet has access to a special area just for them, regardless of whether you’re at home or not. Creating the perfect area for them, equipt with a comfortable bed, toys, and access to food and water is a good way to help them keep calm even when you’re not home.
You can read more about this topic in our article ‘How to make your new pet feel comfortable in your home’.
It’s also good to consider whether your pet would appreciate some background noise such as radio or television whilst they are alone. This largely depends on your pet's character, some pets are happy to be left alone in peace and quiet whereas others can find background noise comforting.
Another thing to think about is the environmental conditions for your pet when you’re not at home. This means you might want to consider timing your heating or air conditioning to ensure that they always feel as comfortable as possible.
To reduce the chance of your pet being bored, it’s a good idea to provide them with some kind of enrichment or toy. This could mean an interactive toy, something homemade or even a toy which gives treats as a reward.
You can read more about this topic in our article ‘How puzzle toys can help manage cat and dog boredom’.
By providing them with something to do, you reduce the chances of them damaging your furniture or belongings during their boredom. You can read more about toys for your pet in our article ‘How to choose the perfect dog or cat chew toy’.
Facilitating their needs
As we already mentioned, even if you’re not with them, your pet has some needs that will need to be met. But don’t worry, if you’re not able to ask someone to come and check on your pet whilst you’re not there, there are a few other options!
This includes installing cat flaps, automated feeders or water drinkers, and providing a way for your dog to enter and return from outside areas unassisted. You could also consider the use of special pee pads or invest in an extra litter box.
If your pet loves company, and the distraction of a radio or television just simply isn’t enough, you might also want to consider getting them a suitable four-legged friend to keep them company.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and that you have all the information you need to help your pet adjust to the back-to-school period.
Our Lifetime Protection Membership includes 24/7 access to veterinary professionals. So if you find your pet in a bad condition when you return from work, or you’re worried about it, you can quickly get the help you need.