20th Apr, 2019

Research shows pets 'get the blues' when children go back to school - here are some tips to help them and you

RESEARCH from Pets at Home shows dogs and cats get the blues as children return to school after six weeks at home.

Experts from the charity say it is not just youngsters who ‘get the blues’ at the beginning of the new school year.

The poll shows four in ten children have more fun with their pets than they do with their friends or siblings over the summer holidays and 63 per cent say they spent more than an hour-a-day interacting with their furry four-legged companions.

The children returning to school leads to separation anxiety, particularly in dogs.

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.”

And the retailer has developed some top tips to prepare dogs and puppies for the social change.

Gradual preparation is the key – If dogs used to always being in the same room or following owners around, they should try asking them to stay while they leave the room for a short time. Reward them when they can do this calmly. If dogs tolerate this exercise, try leaving the house briefly and then come back. This will gradually condition the pet to withstand longer periods alone.

Provide an enriching, pet-friendly environment – Keep a special bag of dog toys which are taken out only when people are away. This way the dog or puppy will associate people leaving them 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 when they are alone.

Alternate attention times – Alternate times where owners pay their pet attention and times when they don’t. Explain to children a dog or puppy needs alone time too. This will condition them to see the absence as a normal experience.

Do some physical activity – Where possible, try to walk or play with dogs or puppies before leaving so they’ll be more inclined to relax and possibly sleep when the house is empty.

Know your pet’s breed – Each dog is different and will experience being alone differently depending on their individual personality and breed. Some breeds of 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.”

Visit www.petsathome.com for more information.

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