Books, Backpacks, and Barking…?

School is back in session, and regardless of your feelings about it (a bit of sadness mixed with a twinge of relief, perhaps?) your dog is likely to be affected by the abrupt change in schedule. 

Pets can experience the back-to-school blues too, especially if they’ve just had a summer full of fun and attention. Having a family member suddenly missing from daily life can trigger separation anxiety, and can take a serious toll on a pet’s happiness and sense of security.

Fortunately, there is plenty that can be done to manage pet separation anxiety, and in some cases prevent it before it starts. Your Wagly vet team is committed to helping you ease this transition for your pet, and get them back on track in no time!

Know the Signs

Pet separation anxiety can manifest in a variety of ways, including:

  • Pacing and whining, especially when you are getting ready to leave
  • Digging, destroying things, or house soiling while you’re gone
  • Excessive clinginess, even if you’re just going into the other room
  • Low energy, loss of appetite, depression
  • Hanging out in the missing person’s room/with their belongings

Preventing the Progression of Pet Separation Anxiety

Try the following ideas to minimize the difficulties your dog may experience when the kids go back to school:

Keep calm – Don’t make a big deal out of leaving or coming home. Say a quick goodbye to your pet and greet them only when they are calm.

Acclimation/desensitization – If possible, start acclimating your pet to the new routine in advance by leaving them home alone for longer and longer periods of time. Expose them to the cues that you’re leaving, such as putting on your shoes, getting your keys, and opening and closing the door while you’re home so these things don’t always predict your departure.

Distraction – Offer a fun distraction, such as a safe chew toy or a Kong filled with peanut butter or their food. Once they’ve been distracted for 15 minutes, quietly leave through a door that you don’t normally use.  

Training – Putting your dog through a “sit for everything” protocol can help manage pet separation anxiety by establishing a good routine. Train your dog to sit for everything, including walks, playtime, petting, going outside, etc. As they learn to “ask” for what they want by sitting, the need to jump, whine, and beg will decrease.

Reward independence – It’s important to reward your dog for calm, independent behaviors such as not following you when you leave a room, or tolerating your interaction with other pets. Try training your dog to settle on a mat in order to receive treats, and gradually increase the amount of time they spend settling. Eventually, you can leave the room and have them stay on the mat to wait for your return when they will get their treat.

Natural products – For pets with mild separation anxiety, certain natural products can help. Adaptil pheromone sprays or collars, Purina Calming Care Probiotic, and Just Food For Dogs Calm Supplement are a few examples of products that can help pets to feel more calm. Dogs with moderate to severe separation anxiety may need a veterinarian’s help to get back on track.

How Wagly Can Help

When it comes to dealing with pet separation anxiety, Wagly pet boarding or daycare may be just the ticket. 

  • Pet daycare is a wonderful way to burn off that excess energy and ensure they get plenty of attention throughout the day. Our play coaches provide fun, structured activities every day!
  • For those pets who don’t enjoy the company of other dogs, we can schedule individual playtime, neighborhood walks, or even cuddle time to ensure they receive plenty of attention. 
  • Animals who are anxious during pet boarding stays may benefit from medications to help keep them calm. Please schedule an appointment with your Wagly veterinarian if you think your pet may benefit from this.

As the hustle and bustle of back-to-school preparations begin, don’t forget about your furry family members! A little bit of planning and preparation can ward off the back-to-school blues in pets, and keep everyone in your home happier.