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.