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Is Pet Anxiety Common when Kids Go Back to School?

family walking a dog in their neighborhood

Pets immersed in all manner of family summer fun may feel like the rug’s been pulled out from under them when the academic year revs up. Indeed, there’s a common slump that household animals find themselves in when there’s no one to frolic with after breakfast, no sticky hands to lick after lunch, and no one to doze with before supper. Luckily, there are things you can do to ease symptoms of pet anxiety before the school year gets underway.

Routine’s the Thing

Pets thrive when they know what to expect. They love routine so much that when it’s disrupted, even slightly, they may experience a type of despondence they’ve never known before. By the time summer is over, the family pet has probably grown accustomed to receiving lots of attention, affection, and activity.

Hustle and Bustle

Establishing a new routine is critical to counteract pet anxiety. When it comes to communicating upcoming changes to your pet, try the following:

  • Ease into the new routine at least a week beforehand.

  • Leave your pet alone in the morning, like you would when going to school and/or work.

  • Return home about 30 minutes later; slowly increase your time away each day.

  • Introduce your pet to the various items associated with school. Leaving out backpacks, lunch boxes, and other gear will help them get the hint.

Still Blue

Pet anxiety and depression may naturally fade into the background within the first few weeks of school. If your pet’s behavior signals trouble on the horizon, try supporting them in the following ways:

  • Ensure their meals and bathroom breaks are at the same time each and every day.

  • Exercise them thoroughly before leaving and after you return home.

  • Try not to make a huge deal about coming home, as this can reinforce pet anxiety. Instead, maintain a low-key approach, and, hopefully, your pet will follow suit.


Pet anxiety can be soothed with white noise or soft music around the house. Likewise, place key items, like well-worn clothing or comforting bedding, in places you know your pet might hang around in your absence (like near the front door).

Enriching their home environment with interactive or puzzle toys can also go a long way toward soothing pet anxiety. Rubber Kongs can be filled and placed around the house for them to discover and are great distractions for when your pet is home alone.

Pet Anxiety is Normal

For a pet who shows excessively troubling and destructive behavior, it may be worth considering a dog walker, pet sitter, or doggie day care .to give your pet hands-on attention while you are away. In some cases anti-anxiety medication may be necessary.

Be sure to give your pet one-on-one time in the evenings and on the weekends. It’s not always easy during the school year, but it’s totally worth it to diminish feelings of intense separation and pet anxiety.