Pet experts are urging owners to spare a thought for their pets this September, as they reveal that dogs and cats may get the blues as children return to school.
When pupils return to full time education, dogs and puppies may suffer from separation anxiety which can result in a change in their animals’ behaviour at the start of the school term.
Research by Pets at Home* revealed that more than four in ten children (44%) admitted to having more fun with their pet than they do with their friends or siblings with more than half of children surveyed (63%) spending more than an hour interacting with their furry friend each day. This time spent with their pets is likely to decrease suddenly as children return to school this September.
Dr Maeve Moorcroft, Head of Pets at Pets at home said: “After being surrounded by family for a few weeks, pets get used to the fun and attention families bring them, but a sudden empty home can affect them.
“Even well-behaved pets start exhibiting strange or unruly behaviour when this happens, but there are actions you can take to minimise this, especially with dogs and puppies.”
Now back to school season is officially here, Pets at Home has developed some top tips for preparing your dogs and puppies for the social change ahead.
- Gradual preparation is the key: If your dog is used to always being in the same room with you or following you around, try asking them to stay while you leave the room for a short time. Reward them when they can do this calmly. If your dog can tolerate this exercise, try leaving the house briefly and then come back. This will gradually condition your pet to withstand longer periods alone.
- Provide an enriching, pet-friendly environment: Keep a special bag of dog toys that you take out only when you plan to be away. This way your dog or puppy will associate you leaving with something fun and positive. By leaving a radio or television on a low volume, pet owners can also mask any outdoor noises that may startle their pets during their absence.
- Alternate attention times: Alternate times where you pay your pet attention and times when you don’t. If you have children, explain to them that a dog or puppy needs alone time too. This will condition them to see your absence as a normal experience.
- Do some physical activity: Where possible, try to walk or play with your dog or puppy before you leave so they’ll be more inclined to relax and possibly sleep whilst you’re away.
- Know your pets breed: Each dog is different and will experience being alone differently depending on their individual personality and breed. Your dog or puppy may be quite independent and not mind being alone for a few hours, while other may struggle more to adapt to the social change.
“The return to school can be a busy, exciting, and sometimes stressful time for families, and pets are very sensitive to this. Preparing them for the change is vital”. Maeve adds.
“Luckily, while dogs are social animals that love company, they can also learn to like time by themselves. The good news is with the right training and preparation. Your dog will learn to handle, and maybe even enjoy, their time alone.”