Pets are People Too: Back to school for pets

By Jennifer Keene

September is back to school time for kids everywhere and that often signals big changes for pets too. Pets in families with school aged children may benefit from having more attention during the summer and can feel the loss of that when things get back to normal in the fall. Here are a few tips to ease the transition for your family pets:

Help pets gradually acclimate to being alone again for periods of the day. Leave treats, something safe to chew on like a Kong or other enrichment toy. Keep your departures and reunions low key. Crate trained dogs may feel safer and more comfortable in their dens. If your dog is destroying things while you are gone or barking and whining excessively, they may be experiencing separation anxiety. Talk to your veterinarian or a find an animal behavior specialist as soon as possible because this is a condition that may worsen without professional intervention.

Make sure to build plenty of play, exercise and attention for pets into your family routine for before and after school. Consider a pet sitter for midday visits or taking your dog to day care if you are feeling short on time.

Be careful of backpacks and lunch boxes – pets can nose or paw their way into these treasure troves left within their reach and are at risk of ingesting dangerous items such as sugarless gum or foods that are healthy for kids but toxic to pets like onions, raisins or macadamia nuts. If your child carries any kind of medications, those could be dangerous for pets as well.

Take your dog back to school, too! Whether you have kids at home or not, fall is a great time to sign yourself and your dog up for a training class together. Local dog training businesses offer everything from beginner classes and refresher courses to advanced activities like agility, tricks, competitive obedience and more.

For more information or if you have questions, go to washingtoncountypets.com. The Bonnie Hays Animal Shelter is located at 1901 SE 24th Ave in Hillsboro. The ASPCA also has a pet poison control page at aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control.