guinea pig in glasses reading a bookOne of the best ways to manage change in your household is to keep to a routine. This time-tested approach works wonders for people, but it’s also a great strategy for your pet at the start of the school year.

The back to school blues are felt profoundly by your four-legged family member, but with a healthy combination of preparation and patience, your pet’s new routine will be a smashing success.

General Upheaval

An action-packed summer full of squealing laughter, falling crumbs, and endless cuddles can cause even the most laid-back pet to become unhinged when school starts. Anxiety or sadness can take over, giving way to a full-scale case of the back to school blues.

A Word on Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is felt deeply by people and pets alike. Sometimes, feelings of loneliness or isolation can manifest in a variety of ways, including:

  • Excessive barking, howling, whining, or whimpering
  • Destructive behavior
  • Soiling inside the house
  • Repetitive sniffing, searching, and looking out windows
  • Inappetance
  • Increased sensitivity to noise or light
  • Obvious panic
  • Hiding
  • Clinging to the first person who returns home

Without the constant attention of summer, your pet could also start looking for ways to beat the boredom. Furniture, garbage cans, potted plants, and other household items that previously held no interest for your pet could suddenly become prime targets.

What About the Bus?

It may seem like a good idea to bring your dog along to your child’s bus stop, but this could place him or her in the crosshairs. Many animals react unpredictably around buses, other children, and traffic, making this scene decidedly unsafe.

Handling the Back To School Blues

Our team recommends the following tactics to beat the back to school blues:

  • If possible, start your new routine a few weeks in advance so your pet can grow accustomed to the new schedule.
  • Offer your pet lots of praise, hugs, and attention prior to leaving.
  • Take your pet to his or her bed or another favorite spot to boost feelings of safety and security.
  • Offer a healthy treat to prolong the positive feelings.
  • Leave behind a mentally stimulating toy, such as a Kong.
  • When you return, exercise your pet or spend quality time playing together.
  • Reward him or her for good behavior.
  • Do not scold or punish your pet if you notice any behavioral changes; instead, let us know how we can assist your pet with the transition.
  • Keep up with regular meal times and scheduled play/walks.


Some pets need more support than others to beat the back to school blues. A pet sitter or dog walker could help smooth the transition, and of course, a little socialization never hurt anyone! You might also consider agility or obedience training to keep your pet active, lean, and stimulated.

Your thoughtfulness and consideration are key components in the fight against the back to school blues. Remember: you are not alone. Your friends at Billings Animal Family Hospital are always here for you and your pet. Please call us with any questions or concerns.