How Has Quarantine Changed Pets’ Behavior?
by Comora Tolliver
Holy Moly! Covid-19 has changed everything about our lives and the lives of our pets. Barkers Anonymous uses the term “quarantine survival” daily.
Our daily lives, experiences and routines have been greatly impacted. Here are some situations that may be surprising to us in the way they change our dog’s behavior, not only now, but after the crisis has lessened or passed. How do we adjust to this new way of living and how do we help our dogs adapt to all of this change?
One thing that has changed about daily life is that we are all wearing masks! This could be very frightening to some dogs. Get your dog used to seeing people in masks. Let your dog see and sniff the mask and put it on your own face while they are watching. Give them treats and play games with them while wearing the mask.
Going on walks will be a new challenge with social distancing, since your dog is used to stopping to chat with his pal while you chat with yours. How will you deal with this change in requested behavior with other dogs being walked with owners you typically stop and chat with? Carry high value treats with you and reward your dog for staying with you at a distance without greeting the other dog. At first, these greetings may be shorter than even you like because your dog may become frustrated that his normal greeting isn’t allowed.
We can easily make our pet’s lives less stressful by playing games of fetch or tug, stuffing enrichment toys with meals or yummy treats, or going on sniffing safari walks. All of these things will help engage your dog’s mind and will relieve the stress of all of the change we are all facing.
It’s very important to plan ahead for vet visits. Typically we can support our pet and make sure they are as comfortable as possible arriving at and going into the vet’s office. This is not the case now. If we don’t address this we will be seeing a lot of car reactivity and other fear behaviors in the future. If the technicians are coming to your car to get your pet wearing a mask and gloves, think about the effect this has on your pet’s emotions. This is not typical of what they are use to experiencing, especially not optimal for a puppy’s first vet experience. The stages of puppy development guide the rest of your puppy’s development into a well-balanced individual. Before you alert the vet that you have arrived, call them to discuss the approach you want them to take.
Barkers Anonymous suggests placing a bag of high value treats outside of your car for them to pick up when approaching. Call to let them know you have arrived and tell them that you have left some treats outside of your car. Ask them to be patient and not to rush removing your pet from the car. Reaching into the car or opening the door suddenly can be very frightening for some more timid dogs and set off a reactive dog (is it a new tech who may not know your dog?) Tell the tech to take time to talk to your pet and give them some of the yummy treats you planted outside your car. Planning will make things easier for your dog. Practice this with someone who lives in your home so that if the occasion arises that you must go to the vet, the procedure is familiar to your dog.
Now that we’re home and need to cuddle our pets, we may forget, dogs need alone time! Your dog may become dependent on you being around all of the time. You may have already discovered an increase in separation anxiety. Giving your dog alone time will help to avoid creating more separation anxiety when life returns to the new normal.
Puppy socialization is very important. The stages of puppy development guide the rest of your puppy’s development into a well-balanced individual. Pet parents have up to the age of 12-16 weeks to expose a puppy to new things. This period is critical. Hopefully you have at least one other person in your household. Ask everyone in your home to take an active role in participating in your puppy’s care. Rotate duties between family members like feeding, taking them out to potty, training, and playing with them. Help your puppy learn that people do a lot of great stuff. Carry your puppy around while social distancing. Let them see other people and search out surprising things to expose them to like trash trucks, sirens, and other dogs. You can even have someone in your household surprise your puppy by wearing costumes, sunglasses, hats, or carrying an umbrella! Get creative! It will go a long way. Take the time to do training sessions that move to every room of your house and all around your yard! Take your puppy off of your property and to different locations, even if it’s in your arms or in a puppy stroller. Pups become location sensitive during this period, so it is imperative that you get your pup out and about.
Barkers Anonymous is there for you through all of your behavioral challenges. We are happy to chat with you and point you in the right direction as we move through these challenges. We are all learning how to get through this together and we will use our expertise to come up with creative challenges to help you and your pets build more trust and excel through these changes we all face.
Comora Tolliver is the owner of Barkers Anonymous, a pet supply, accessory and training facility in Hendersonville. They can be reached at 828-513-1131.