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Your Happy Pet: Pets get back-to-school blues, too

Original Publication Date: August 4, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

As summer comes to an end, kids gather up their new notebooks, pencils and backpacks and head to school.

They are usually eager to meet new teachers and see old friends, but the change in their routine can leave the family pet confused, lonely and bored. It isn't unusual for a dog or cat to go into a funk when the household routine changes. You may wish to ease your pet into the back-to-school schedule by making minor changes before school starts.

Dogs are creatures of habit, so setting a simple routine will make them comfortable. Feed your pup breakfast and ask your child to spend 15 minutes playing or walking the dog. Continue the routine when school starts. Exercise releases lots of energy, and tired muscles and a full belly equal a relaxed pet.

Do not make a big deal out of leaving for the day. Dogs sense what is on your mind. If you are stressed about leaving them alone, they also will be stressed. Make the departure for school a fun time that includes the dog. Let your dog walk with you and the children to the bus stop or take it as a passenger if you drive the kids to school. You can do the same when you pick the kids.

Pets sleep a lot of their day away but do need something to occupy their time when awake. Interactive toys can help in this regard. Pet stores showcase a variety of toys that cause the pet to work and think to get a treat.

Dogs can be challenged with a peanut butter or cream cheese-stuffed Kong or a variety of odd-shaped puzzle toys that release a treat when the pup manipulates them properly. There are also stimulating toys for cats. Keep several different interactive toys and trade them out daily or weekly to keep play an interesting challenge.

There are other options. Perhaps you can take a few minutes of your lunch hour to go home and greet your pet, or a friend may be able to stop by to take your dog on a midday walk or give your cat a few minutes of snuggle time.

Sometimes your pet has to be left for several hours a day when school starts. Remember that pets can experience the blues when the kids they played with all summer aren't around.

Set up a school-year schedule that includes family activities and school and also satisfies the needs of your pet. Exercise your pet before you leave, keep his time interesting with toys and spend quality time with it when you and the kids get home. Most pets adapt to change in a routine quickly.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at