With mask-wearing in Melbourne now mandatory, and people in other states choosing to wear them as a safety precaution or via encouragement from state governments, pets can be left confused and even fearful at the sight of their owners wearing masks.
“Pets have a natural ability to understand and respond to human expression and it plays a significant role in building a positive relationship and trust between pet and owner,” says PETstock vet Dr Sasha Nefedova.
“With face masks now being mandatory in Victoria and encouraged to be worn in other parts of the country, for pets, seeing their owners wear face masks may cause them to feel scared or anxious, particularly for those that are naturally timid or shy.”
The solution, as Nefedova explains, is to introduce face masks in a familiar environment, like your home, and allow your pets the time to get used to the sight of you in the garment.
“To do this, wear the mask partly on your face when you interact with your pet and as they become familiar with the mask, gradually cover more of your face,” Nefedova says
“If your pet continues to demonstrate symptoms of anxiety, including shaking, licking of the lips or pacing, remove the mask and try again the next day.
“The key is to keep these sessions short and sweet to prevent your pet from becoming irritated, tired, or anxious.”
Treats will help to solidify positive associations with masks in your sessions, so keep a handful on standby. Even better, take some treats with you when you go on your daily walks and reward your furry friend when they react positively to others wearing masks also.
Lastly, do not mask your own dog during walkies. Nefedova says: “There is limited evidence that pets and companion animals can get infected with COVID-19 and no evidence they can pass it to humans.
“Therefore, there is no need to place a face mask on your pet and doing so may cause them significant distress and in some cases cause life-threatening breathing difficulties.”