Dogs and Face Masks – Is Your Dog Worried?
Dogs and face masks don’t mix very well. Some may become anxious, frightened, or confused if they cannot see a person’s face. Voices also may seem different, or muffled, when speaking from behind a mask. In this Holidays4Dogs article, we will look at ways of helping the dog that finds face masks troubling.
Dogs are exceptionally good at reading body language in other dogs, but they are also very clever at interpreting cues given by human beings. Not only are dogs capable of following the direction of a pointed finger, they are also very astute when it comes to reading facial expressions of people.
If you provide lots of tasty treats, your dog will soon learn to get used to you and other people wearing face masks. It just takes a little time and patience.
A process of desensitising the dog to face masks is the way forward. Gather together plenty of tasty tit bits. Sit somewhere comfortable where your dog will be relaxed. Let the dog see and sniff your face mask. Next, hold your hand up to your face, with your face mask held between your fingers.
Give lots of tasty treats if your dog remains focused and calm. Repeat the process, but this time talk to your dog and ask him to do something he understands, such as sit. Reward as soon as he does so. If all goes well, put your face mask on and give your dog plenty of treats for eye contact.
Rewarding for eye contact is an important part of this training. Some dogs can find it confusing when only a person’s eyes are visible. Try to avoid lengthy stares at your dog while wearing your face mask. Practice flicking your eyes away, or looking past him from time to time. However, at the same time, remember to reward him for looking at you.
As long as your dog remains calm you should be able to work through these stages pretty swiftly. If, at any time, your dog seems anxious, or confused – stop and go back a few steps.
Training while out and about.
Once your dog is comfortable with you wearing a mask indoors, you can continue with getting him used to other people wearing masks. Each time you see another person approaching wearing a mask, give your dog a treat.
If you stop to talk, or interact with other people wearing masks, give your dog plenty of treats. If you have friends or family who can help with this by dropping treats on the floor as you meet, this will all help to keep your dog relaxed.
When you yourself meet a strange dog while wearing your face mask, it is best to let the dog come to you. This is a sensible precaution anyway when meeting another dog you do not know. Try not to give the dog direct eye contact in case this makes the dog feel threatened. Avoid bending down, or over, a strange dog. This is normally never a good idea anyway if you do not know the dog, but this is perhaps even more important while wearing a face covering. If the dog is already nervous, someone looming over him in a face mask just might be the last straw.
The majority of dogs will soon get used to people wearing face masks and plenty of dogs won’t care one way or another! However, it is still a good idea to make things as easy as possible for your dog and let him know that face masks are nothing to worry about.