You don’t look like you and it’s scary.
We expect that a Halloween mask can set off a pet’s defense mechanism. Dogs may growl and cats may hiss at the site of something they perceive as scary. Imagine how we must look to them now that our new protocol is to wear a face mask?
Our pets may get anxious when they can’t see our full face whether we are with them daily or just showing up on occasion. They don’t know if, behind the mask is a smile or a scowl. They hear us speak, but they don’t see our mouths move.
Peek-a-Boo without the BOO!
Make it easier for your pets, especially your canine companion, by getting them accustomed to seeing a mask on their household members. To get started at home, go slow and make sure your dog is relaxed.
First cover your mouth and nose with your hand and give your pet a treat. Repeat this several times until they expect the treat and look forward to the training exercise. Your pet is creating a good association with having your face covered and getting a treat. Now try it with your mask of choice and repeat the exercise (and reward) while wearing the covering for longer intervals.
Get Everyone Involved
Walk around your house, wearing a mask while talking to your pet and offering treats. Also have the other members of your household do the same. This will help your pet get used to seeing a mask on people in general. Once your pet is comfortable in the house, you are ready to do the exercise outside.
When someone walks by with a mask give your dog a treat. The treat is now a reward for learning how to take masks in stride. The key to success is keeping your pet undisturbed at each phase of learning. If your pet starts to get anxious – go back to the last step where it was calm. There is no hurry. Masks are going to be around for a while.
After this training, your pet should be a little more comfortable to the visit the veterinarian, unconcerned about walking past other people wearing masks, and happy to see their favorite pet sitter and dog walker.
Let me know how the training goes or contact me if you have any questions about keeping your pets happy and relaxed as we start to venture out into our new world.
Take a lesson on being in the now.
It’s easy to get caught up in the fear, anxiety and stress of the Covid-19 pandemic but, I have decided to take a life lesson from my pets; I am focusing on the now. While I am being safe, following the CDC guidelines and social distancing, I am keeping informed but not glued to the deluge of information about the virus. I am watching informative webinars, listening to uplifting Ted Talks, assembling jigsaw puzzles, and spending time with my pets. Honestly, this pandemic would be even harder to endure if I didn’t have Davy and Ginger to keep me company and to set a good example.
They are consistent in their routine; they wake me up at 5 a.m. for breakfast every day. (There is no such thing as a weekend in my house.) After breakfast and their backyard outing, we get some exercise with our routine walk – first Davy and then Ginger. Each dog sees this neighborhood stroll differently. Davy wants to experience all the sights and smells and has a keen eye for the possibility of saying “Hi” to someone he knows. Ginger is happier with her nose to the ground – always on the alert for a new scent.
MIX IT UP
To keep the walk interesting, we vary pace with slow, medium, and fast gaits. Once we’re back home, I’ll ask them to do spins, sits, stays, go arounds, and come to keep their obedience training sharp. Now to keep our mental acuity up and to add some fun, we are going through the AKC trick dog list. Davy is learning to crawl on command and Ginger is learning to give me her paw. There are a lot of fun items on the Trick List that will take a while to get to and I have the extra time right now, so why not?
All day long they keep me engaged and out of my mental mess. They remind me when it’s feeding time, snuggle time, and when I need to take a break from my office work. Davy will lay his head on my lap and Ginger will do her dance at the door. They are great companions and provide unconditional love. Davy is in charge of security and is quick to let me know if a stranger is getting too close to the house. While Ginger is responsible for reminding me to slow down and savor life. She demonstrates it by enjoying a peaceful rest in a sunny spot.
KITTENS & BIRDIES & HORSES, OH MY!
Other pets are also a wonderful source of comfort and activity during these odd times. Cats are social animals that love to be around their humans. Many enjoy playing with toys, being brushed, bird-watching from their favorite windowsill, or chasing a laser light. Cats can learn tricks, too. Some cats fetch as well as dogs. Just be patient!
Horses can certainly help take your mind off your troubles and provide a lot of activity. Grooming is a great way to quiet your mind, a trail ride is perfect for spending time outdoors, and just being around horses is good for your soul.
If you have a bird at home, now is a great time to enrich your bird’s cage. Our avian friends are intelligent and get bored with life in a cage. In the wild, they are constantly searching for food, discovering something new, and staying active.
By offering new and colorful toys, perches with different textures, adding a variety of fruits and vegetables to their diet you can bring a lot of that excitement to their cage life. Don’t forget some yummy pine nuts for a treat. You can also add some pleasant sounds by playing music they like to hear. I know a bird who loves Enya. Experiment and observe them enjoying their upgraded environment.
Fish and reptiles are a great distraction, too. Watching fish swimming and meandering around an aquarium can be soothing and hypnotic. The slow pace of your pet tortoise or lizard is what helps them have a long life. Keep that in mind as we stay home and slow down.
CUDDLES & COMFORT
Pets can bring people comfort and calm during these trying times. I have seen more people walking pets in my neighborhood than I have ever seen before. They must be feeling the same benefits that I am feeling. It’s going to be a long few months. If you are feeling anxious, spend some quality time with your pets to help you cope and mimic their ability to focus just on the moment.