COVID-19 brought big changes to all of our lives, including your pets. As our lifestyles and schedules adjust or change, you may find that your four-legged friend has some trouble adapting to new routines and experiences. Here are a few things to watch for and how to deal with them effectively:
- Don’t Leave Me – It’s no surprise that after having months of your constant presence at home, you dog may not be willing to part with you quite so easily as you return to work or school. One of the most important things you can do is to begin leaving your dog alone in the home for varying periods of time. Go for just a minute to start, then gradually increase the time you are gone. Your dog will (hopefully) come to learn that absences are safe. Make leaving a non-event, and try to distract your dog with a treat or toy they only get when you’re away.
- Social Distancing – The need to socially distance can mean dogs have fewer opportunities to be exposed to different people, places, and activities. It’s important to prepare your pet for the time when they can and will meet lots of different people, other dogs and explore new environments. Create positive experiences by rewarding engagement with treats, play and praise so that these new activities don’t cause stress or fear. Positive experiences can include going for a walk or car ride (but not every time you leave the house) and exploring both the indoors and outdoors in a supervised setting. If you have a neighbor with a well-behaved, friendly dog, set up meet and greets at the fence.
- Maintain a Routine – While humans may tire from doing the same things over and over again, establishing and maintaining a routine is comforting for dogs and cats. Zoom work calls and remote learning can wreak havoc with your established routine so try to schedule work- and school-related activities outside of your pet’s regular feeding and exercise times. When you do need to disrupt your routine, provide a comfortable place for your pet to amuse itself with toys or treats until the family can gather together again.
Patience and consistency are the keys as you help your pet adapt to routine changes and new experiences. More information about socializing dogs during this difficult time is available at the American Veterinary Medical Association website.