All good things must come to an end, even our gorgeous New England summers! As summer winds down, vacations end, and kids go back to school, keep in mind this time of year not only brings change in routine for humans, but for our furry friends as well.

Household Pets Like Routine

Dogs and cats grow accustomed to kids being home and the hustle and bustle of summertime fun around the house! Your pets may experience separation anxiety when kids go back to school and mom and dad go back to work. You may notice subtle changes in behavior; a sad dog or cat who mopes around or sleeps a lot more. Or your dog may suddenly start chewing things he shouldn’t and your cat may do a lot more meowing.

All domestic pets love routine as it makes them feel safe and secure. They like knowing certain things happen at the same time each day. If your family has been around all summer, playing outside with the dog and giving kitty extra love and snuggles, then suddenly the kids are gone to school and the house is quiet, it can be upsetting to your furry friends. Some pets just feel sad and confused, and others feel real separation anxiety and may act up.

How to Handle Your Pet’s Separation Anxiety

This is a family matter and a great learning experience for children. Let your kids know that their dog or cat is going to miss them when they’re gone to school all day and discuss ideas so they can help their pets through the transition. If your kids spend quality time with their pets upon returning home from school each day, this will become your pet’s new routine and he will start to look forward to that time together. Homework time is a great time for Fido or Fluffy to curl up next to the kids and bond with them. I would discourage prolonged, sad goodbyes every morning. For an anxious pet, this will only reinforce his anxiety about being alone for the day. Better to make the morning goodbye upbeat and brief or eliminate completely.

Here are a few additional ideas that can help your pet make the transition into Fall:

Smart Toys for Pets

Smart toys are designed to make pets problem solve and work for their treats. They are great if your pet is home alone for extended periods of time. The market is full of smart toys for dogs and cats that range from a basic kibble dispenser to more advanced puzzle like options that require your pet to move pieces around to get to the hidden treats.

Do a quick Google search and you’ll find many options for both dogs and cats. If you keep a couple on hand you can rotate them periodically to keep your pets interest!

Here are a couple that I really like:

Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers

Hiring someone to walk your dog – or even just visit and play with him while you’re at work and kids are at school can go a long way. If using a professional service every day isn’t in the budget, try a long session once or twice a week. The key is to find a service that matches your pet’s needs. If you have a big, active dog, you want someone who can take him on long, strenuous hikes to wear him out. If you have a mellow dog or cat, maybe he’d prefer someone to brush and pet him quietly for a half hour.

Remember if everyone in the house is gone most of the day, your pets are going to be bored. You and your kids may have had a very busy day, but your pet has done virtually nothing ALL DAY LONG. It’s important to keep this in mind even though you come home exhausted. Providing your dog and cat vigorous play and attention on a daily basis will help them burn pent up energy and help them get used to the change in daily activities in their household.