As summer break winds down, vacation suitcases are unpacked, and the kids start stuffing their backpacks with supplies for a new year, you may notice your pet acting differently – what’s the deal? It’s not your imagination: this season can trigger behavioral issues. We often see an increase in training and behavioral questions from our customers right around when school is back in session.
When children suddenly aren’t around to shower their favorite furry friend with attention, pets can feel lonely and confused about the decrease in human presence in the house. As autumn approaches, the weather changes, work schedules get busier ahead of the holidays, and people spend less recreational time outside with their animals. Loneliness, decreased physical activity, and change can trigger depression and anxious actions like excessive chewing, barking, and litter box issues.
Luckily, there are things pet owners can do to help relieve stress in pets and curb negative seasonal behaviors:
- Spend more productive quality time with pets when you are home. Take them on walks, actively engage in playtime or obedience training, or get children to engage with pets before and/or after school. Take them along to school drop off (if they like a car ride!)
- Offer special chewing, treat-dispensing, or puzzle-type toys to keep pets’ minds occupied when human companions are away from home. Give these coveted toys only when you are leaving the house.
- Ignore excessive barking whenever possible. If you open the door to let your dog in because they are barking, this teaches the dog that barking gets the door opened. Wait for a pause in barking before letting them inside. Try not to use the backyard as a place of banishment or punishment, and as always, never leave a dog outdoors in the heat.
- Clean litter boxes and small animal cages regularly. Often, people can get busier in the fall and this unpleasant task can fall by the wayside, triggering pets to eliminate in all the wrong places. Setting an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to clean them regularly can be useful.
- Consider hiring a dog walker to come a couple of hours after you’ve left the house to help Fido expend energy before they come up with a creative way to destroy your furniture or shoes.
Resolutions to behavioral problems in pets are most effective when they address the root causes. Otherwise, you are just being reactive to the symptoms. So while barking might be the problem, the actual problem isn’t the barking, it’s the stress that causes barking. As always, please feel free to ask us any questions you have about caring for your pet. We love them just as much as you do!