Helping pets emerge from COVID lockdown: discussion on Ireland AM

This week on VMTV’s Ireland AM, Pete was joined by Marina Fiddler of, discussing issues around pets as we all return to normal life as the COVID-19 restrictions start to ease. To watch the video, see here.

1) The sudden social change

Pets – both dogs and cats – are creatures of habit, and they generally don’t like sudden change. So it was a shock to their system when the COVID lockdown happened: suddenly their owners were at home all the time, with much more socialisation, far less time on their own.
Now that the lockdown is over, the reverse change will happen: pets that have grown used to humans being around all the time are now going to have to get used to being left alone more, as their owners go out, to work, shops etc.
The best approach to this is to get pets used to this change gradually, deliberately leaving them in a room on their own for a while, even when you are not going out. Give them an interactive toy (such as a food stuffed Kong or K9Connectable toy) to entertain them.
And keep up regular routines, like twice daily walking for dogs.

2) Undersocialised puppies

Puppies who have been living in isolation are a particular concern: they have missed out on the normal routine contact with dogs during the critical socialisation period of 3 – 17 weeks when their brain is geared to be receptive and curious about other dogs.
If you have a pup (6 months and under) it’s important that you work hard now to get them used to other dogs: reward them for walking calmly on the leash beside you, and introduce them to other dogs only in the distance, continuing to reward them for staying calm. If friends have gentle, sociable dogs, it may help if such puppies can make friends with them (e.g. go on walks together).
For more, see here

3) Getting dogs used to people wearing facemasks

Facemasks can scary. Even for us, seeing people in the supermarket wearing masks, we can feel uncomfortable – even though we know why they are doing it – because we can’t see their faces properly or read their expression How much scarier could this be for our dogs?
Some dogs are so well-socialised and so well-balanced and accepting of novelty, people could wear virtually anything they liked and the dogs would be quite happy about it.
For other, more nervous, dogs, it can be a far more worrying issue. Dogs are used to looking at human faces and seeing them clearly. It’s frightening for some dogs when suddenly, our familiar faces are hidden.

As a vet, I have found that some dogs get frightened and even aggressive when I am wearing a mask – so I need to remove the mask and then they calm down!

Spending some time on getting your dog used to you wearing a mask is easy, and will make a huge difference to how they learn to respond and accept people looking so odd
Always be aware that a stranger in a mask, especially in a new environment, may still be a source of fear for your dog.
By getting your dog used to masks, if you, your friends or family, the vets or groomer are wearing one, then you will be reassured to know that your dog’s not going to be worried about them.

To watch the video, follow the link below.

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