Kids and pets alike dread going back to school, despite the fact that it means an earlier breakfast for your chowhound. When schedules are disrupted and your home is empty all day, your pooch may howl for attention, much to your neighbors’ irritation. Separation anxiety, while relatively common in pets, may be mistaken for other issues. For example, inappropriate elimination is often chalked up to spite or a urinary tract infection, juvenile behavior may destroy the furniture, and pain may be the culprit behind the heavy panting and pacing.

Separation anxiety is a frustrating condition for pets and owners, especially when the kids go back to school and leave the house empty. Here are three tips to help manage your pet’s back-to-school blues.

1. Divert with distractions

Distract your pet from an empty home and keep her mind off her loneliness and on the fun she’s having without you, by adding a variety of objects to her routine, such as:

  • Food or treat puzzles
  • Long-lasting chews
  • Interactive toys

With separation anxiety, your pet experiences a brief burst of fear immediately following your departure—usually within the first 20 to 30 minutes of her being alone—so use a treat or toy to occupy her mind during this period.

2. Practice peaceful greetings and goodbyes

We love our pets and treat them like family members. Showering them with love and attention, especially during greetings and goodbyes, demonstrates that bond, but the heightened emotions when you walk through the door can increase your pet’s anxiety. Instead, stay calm. Simply walk out the door when you leave, tossing your pet her favorite distraction. When you return, be tough, and ignore your pet until she’s calm. Reward her with a pat once she’s sitting quietly on the floor. Ditch the high-pitched baby talk and the exuberant hugs and help your pet relax.

3. Assert independence

Nothing warms your heart more than a pup who follows you as closely as your shadow. That tight attachment may be adorable, but it doesn’t help your pet build confidence and learn to be content while alone. To expand your pet’s independence, start slowly. Distract her with a treat placed on the opposite side of the room, and gradually increase the distance between you. Keep adding distance until your pet can relax in a room without you.

Have the back-to-school blues hit your pet hard? Call us for help in calming your lonely pet’s anxiety! We’ll be happy to help.