New research reveals 9 in 10 families say their dog can help ease children’s ‘back to school’ anxiety

  • The vast majority of parents surveyed (82%) say that preparing to go back to school and getting into a new routine after the holidays has an impact on their child – with many struggling to adapt to the new routine (33%), experiencing increased anxiety (30%) and stress (27%).

  • However, almost all (90%) of the parents surveyed who own a dog say that their canine companion has had a positive impact in helping their child with the return to school, providing emotional support (50%), a sense of calm (49%) and helping build their child’s confidence (36%).

  • MORE THAN insurance and its charity partner, Dogs for Good, have teamed up to highlight the positive impact family dogs can have in helping ensure a smooth beginning to the school year, releasing a handy guide with tips and tricks for parents.

Preparing to go back to school after the holidays can be a difficult transition for many children and parents, however, new research from MORE THAN insurance and its charity partner, Dogs for Good, has revealed that dogs are playing a crucial role in helping to ease ‘back to school’ stress and anxiety for families.

According to the new survey of 1,000 UK parents, the vast majority (82%) of those polled say that preparing to go back to school and getting into a new routine after the holidays has an impact on their child – with many struggling to adapt to the new routine (33%), while experiencing increased anxiety (30%) and stress (27%).

Focusing on families with disabled children, the impact of the ‘back to school’ transition can be even more significant. According to the parents surveyed, disabled children are more likely to experience increased anxiety about returning to school (46%), compared to children without disabilities (25%). Disabled children are also more likely to experience increased stress (41% vs 23%) and feel unsettled (39% vs 20%).

However, almost all (90%) of the parents surveyed who own a dog say that their canine companion has had a positive impact in helping their child with the return to school, while three fifths (60%) say the ‘back to school’ transition would be more difficult without their dog[1]. The main benefits that dogs bring include providing emotional support (50%), a sense of calm (49%) and building confidence (36%) as their child prepares for the new school year.

Ed Bracher, CEO at Dogs for Good, said: This time of year can be challenging for families. Whether children are heading back to school or are home educated, dogs can play a vital role in helping with the transition back into learning. Our Family Dog service provides parents of autistic children with advice and long-term support for choosing and training a dog, bringing huge benefits to the whole family. We know dogs can help lower parental stress, facilitate more family time and provide direct benefits to children too, from increasing confidence to improving communication.” 

While dogs can offer significant support to families during the ‘back to school’ transition, it is essential to remember that this is also a period of change that our pets need to adjust to as well. However, worryingly, nearly two thirds (65%) of the parents surveyed said that they anticipate their family dog will experience separation anxiety once their child goes back to school[2].

Luke Mangion, Veterinary Surgeon at MORE THAN, says: “Dogs bring incredible benefits to our lives, not only providing unconditional love and companionship, but they also play a crucial role in supporting families. However, it is important to also look out for the needs of your furry friend too, particularly during times of change. During the school holidays, our dogs will have become more familiar with having people around, playing more, going out for more walks, socialising and generally receiving more attention. Once children go back to school, and many families spend less time at home, it is important to help dogs adjust to this change in routine to reduce the risk of them developing separation anxiety.”

 

To support with this, Luke Mangion, MORE THAN’s Veterinary Surgeon, has provided his top tips on how to help your dog adjust to the new routine:

Top tips and advice

  1. Trial school runs – if you walk or drive to school, think about including your dog in the journey and do a few trial runs in the build-up to going back to school, but make sure that the weather isn’t too hot for your dog to be in the car or walking on a hot pavement. You should also check if your school allows this, and ensure you keep your dog away from other children and secure in the car, or on a lead with an adult.
  2. Get your dog used to you not being in the house – leave them alone for a few minutes and then gradually increase this time each day. Reward this with positive reinforcement.
  3. Don’t make a fuss about leaving or coming back home. Keep the mood calm so they are not establishing and connecting excitement to these moments, as this could increase the risk of them developing separation anxiety.
  4. As the end of the holiday period draws near, establish a set playtime with your dog and the kids in the afternoon (around home from school time) or early evening – such as going for walks, playing in the garden, playing fetch, etc.
  5. Set up playdates – other families with pets may also be spending less time at home after the holidays, so setting up play dates during the day means that your dog can still socialise and have company during this time.
  6. Look into a dog walker or doggy daycare if you are going to be away from home a lot – another chance for your pet to have less time alone and more time socialising and playing.

 

To ease both your children and your family dog into the new ‘back to school’ routine, MORE THAN insurance and its charity partner, Dogs for Good, are teaming up to provide a resource pack full of practical guidance, tips and ideas of fun activities to help families during this challenging time – all through harnessing the power of your family’s pet dog. Access the resource pack here.

 

About the research:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Censuswide. Total sample size was 1,001 parents with children (4-18) going back to school. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2nd July – 9th July 2023.

[1] ‘Strongly agree’ and ‘Somewhat agree’ responses combined.

[2] ‘Strongly agree’ and ‘Somewhat agree’ responses combined.

 

About MORE THAN

MORE THAN is the direct financial services brand of Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Ltd. Established in 2001, the company offers home and pet insurance.

About Dogs for Good

Dogs for Good is a UK-based charity training dogs to help adults and children with physical disabilities and learning disabilities, children with autism and adults with dementia.

About Lisa Baker, Editor, Wellbeing News 4246 Articles
Editor Lisa Baker is passionate about the benefits of a holistic approach to healing. Lisa is a qualified Vibrational Therapist and has qualifications in Auricular Therapy, Massage, Kinesiology, Crystal Healing, Seichem and is a Reiki Master.