How To Reduce Back-to-School Separation Anxiety in Your Pets

Ensure a smooth back-to-school transition for your pets, and reduce separation anxiety, with these helpful tips from Dr. Amber Karwacki of Heart + Paw.

As the school bells ring and the back-to-school season approaches, it’s not just the children who experience a significant transition; our furry friends also feel the impact of this change. While the kids head back to their classrooms, pets may feel a sense of loneliness or confusion when their human family members are suddenly absent for long periods. To ensure a smooth transition for your pets, and reduce back-to-school separation anxiety, here are some helpful tips from Dr. Amber Karwacki of Heart + Paw.

1. Gradual Adjustment

Start preparing your pets for the upcoming changes a few weeks before school begins. Gradually adjust their daily routines, especially feeding and walking schedules, to align with the new school timetable. This will help them get used to the changes slowly and reduce the shock of sudden alterations and any associated back-to-school separation anxiety.

2. Create a Safe Space

Designate a cozy and comfortable space in the house where your pets can retreat when they feel overwhelmed or anxious. Fill it with their favorite toys, blankets, and familiar scents to provide a sense of security. This haven will be their go-to place whenever they are home alone and need to be soothed, or if they need some time alone during the hectic after-school hours.

3. Stimulating Toys and Puzzles

Keep your pets mentally stimulated and entertained while the house may seem quieter during school hours. Invest in interactive toys, puzzle feeders, and games that can keep them mentally engaged and prevent boredom. Mental enrichment is essential to prevent behavioral issues that may arise due to the change in routine.

4. Regular Exercise and Playtime

Despite the busy school schedules, ensure your pets get enough exercise and playtime. Take them for walks or play fetch in the backyard both before and after school to burn off excess energy and provide much-needed bonding time. Regular exercise also helps reduce stress and anxiety, keeping them happy and healthy.

5. Positive Reinforcement

Whenever your pets handle the back-to-school transition well or adapt to the changes, shower them with praise, treats, and affection. Positive reinforcement will reinforce their positive behavior and create a positive association with this period, making future transitions easier for them.

With the right approach, back-to-school separation anxiety need not invade your pet’s headspace. In fact, your pet may even enjoy the peace and quiet that back-to-school affords… something moms the world over can no doubt relate to! Let the mid-morning snooze-fest commence.


Dr Amber Karwacki, Heart + Paw

Dr. Karwacki received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Oklahoma State University. After graduating, she worked in New Jersey and Philadelphia both in private and corporate practice as well as with a guide dog school. Dr. Karwacki’s clinical interests include surgery, behavior, and ophthalmology. She is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association, and Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association.

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