The school year is starting. Are your pets ready?


Your dogs have not bought school supplies, they have not found new lunch boxes and they most definitely have not completed any summer reading lists.

But they will notice the start of the school year.

That’s because dogs are students of their people. And if their favorite people suddenly disappear from the house for six to eight hours a day, they’ll know it.

“I think they really do notice that,” said Dr. Jill Sackman, a BluePearl veterinarian who is a clinician in behavioral medicine. “Especially if you have a pet with separation anxiety or a young, energetic pup or kitty who misses the lack of playtime. The lack of exercise and the change in routine can make a big difference.”

And even though some people think of cats as more independent or aloof, they too will notice these major changes in the household.

So what can you do to keep your pets from going a little stir-crazy in an empty house?

“Make sure you don’t forget that running or jogging or going on walks is super-important for dogs,” Sackman said. “Plan some interaction and exercise with them every day.” Even if dogs have access to the back yard, they just don’t romp around like they do when you’re with them. This is especially important for younger, energetic dogs.

A regular schedule for walks, play-time and other activities can be helpful, Sackman said. Some dogs do well coming along to after-school activities or even something as basic as walking with you to the bus stop.

If you have to work long hours, consider hiring a dog walker for a couple days a week, or making regular visits to doggie day care. This might also be a good time to work a dog obedience, agility or fly ball class into your schedule.

“We think of cats as being a lot more independent but a change in contact time and a change in time with their owner is something they will definitely notice,” Sackman added. “You may suddenly find more items batted off bookshelves or sudden zoomies around the house as your cat spends more time alone.”

So make sure you have time each day for some healthy interaction with your cat, especially activities that involve pouncing, jumping and grabbing. Consider getting some cat toys that you can twirl, dangle in the air or drag across the floor. Feather wands or interactive toys with mice or birds or other things that resemble prey are great choices. Read more about cat enrichment here.

In the spirit of the season, we could sum things up by giving you this homework:
Spend time each day doing something active and engaging with your pets.

Isn’t that about the best homework you’ve ever had?