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It’s back-to-school time, and on the first day of school, pets’ lives will change. What are some things you can do to help your pets adjust when school is back in session? Though most of this will be focused on dogs, cats and other pets may need help adjusting, too.

Decide what routine changes will happen. Who will be out of the house during the day? Does a return to school mean adults will return to work? Will your wake-up times be earlier? Will your pet’s mealtimes change? If children were the main source of exercise and interaction for the pet, who will take over?

Once you have figured out the changes to your pet’s life, begin schedule changes a couple of weeks or more before school begins. Gradual change is easier for most pets to handle than a sudden shift.

If your pet cannot have free range in your home, teach her to be comfortable in a safer space. I teach this separately from my leaving whenever possible. I want my dogs to be comfortable while confined, even when I am home. I do not want them to associate being crated only with my leaving.

Multiple times a day, practice leaving and returning. At first, keep your time away from your pet very short – just a few moments as you close the door, walk a few feet away and return. Gradually extend the duration and sometimes leave for only a few minutes. Enrichment toys, such as those in which you can put part of their daily food ration, can help alleviate boredom.

Meeting your pet’s morning exercise needs before you leave home is important. When you leave, keep things drama-free and low key. Fussing over your pet as you try to reassure her you will be back or screaming at your children to hurry up does nothing to make your leaving calmer.

If your children were the main source of activity for your dog, what happens when they return to school? If you will be at home, take time to meet the dog’s needs. If you will be returning to work, adjust your morning routine to meet the dog’s needs before you leave the house.

Food-releasing toys will help meet some physical and mental needs; however, they are not a replacement for human-led activity. If this is not enough, hire a carefully chosen dog walker. If your yard is fenced, the dog walker does not have to walk your dog. A good play session in the yard is fine.

It may be tempting to walk your dog to school or the bus stop with your children. Many schools do not allow dogs that are not service animals on the property. It is a liability. I have watched multiple visibly stressed dogs lunge and snap at children. The same can happen at a bus stop. Also, not all children are comfortable with dogs nearby. After you drop off the children, go home and do something with your pet.

Back to school does not have to be overly stressful for your pet if you are willing to help your pet through the adjustment. If you have any questions, please reach out to a positively-based trainer to help.

Karen Peak is the developer of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project and owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County.

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