Introducing your Pet to Face Masks.

Hi everyone, welcome to another ‘Karls Corner’ blog; I hope it finds you all hale and hearty? No doubt you’ve all heard that from Friday 24th July it became compulsory to wear a face mask/covering in all shops and supermarkets, an additional measure to having to wear them on public transport.

Many people have managed to avoid wearing face masks (especially if they have been able to work from home) by staying in and having their groceries and medicines delivered to their door, so their pets’ lives have carried on pretty unchanged; the most outré thing has been having their human around more! This is all set to change with the wider-reaching mask situation though and, believe it or not, your pet may not take this seemingly innocuous item as a welcome addition to your features. To help your pet (particularly dogs) get used to seeing you with a face mask on and make it as stress-free as possible, there are some simple things you can do. Read on to find out more….

Preparation is vital here, as it is with most things, so before you plan on going out (donning said face covering) get your furry family members used to seeing you with a face mask on around the house and garden, i.e. in territory familiar to them. It’s important that Fido and/or Kitty see you in the act of putting this covering over your features so that they can absorb the process as it’s happening. Talking whilst you put the mask on will reassure them too; your physical appearance may change but your voice won’t (or your scent), so they will know it’s you.

Don’t just put the mask on and walk up to your pet…….

put it on in stages, covering your mouth only at first, and then covering both your mouth and nose. Doing it this way allows your fur-baby time to adjust to your changing appearance. My girls (Betty and Poppy) didn’t particularly react, which I didn’t know whether to be pleased or offended about; did they think “oh, it’s Dad being daft again”, or were they thinking “that’s a definite improvement!”?

The key to your pet being comfortable with, and accepting of, the face mask is to repeat taking it on and off several times each day for as many days as it takes for them to accept it as a normal part of daily routine. Once they have got used to seeing you with the face mask on let other family members introduce themselves with a covering on their faces too.

Reward positive behaviour, however small, with something that your fur-baby likes – whether it’s a toy or a treat doesn’t matter as long as it reinforces positive actions. Remember to not overdo treats though, as they can be calorie-dense.

I am going to assume that you won’t just use one mask, and that some folk like jazzy face coverings. It’s useful to get your canine companion used to a variety of styles as you may encounter some weird and wonderful versions whilst out walking or shopping. It’s always worth keeping some treats in your pocket when you’re out-and-about anyhow but even more so at the present time, just so that pooch can be rewarded for non-reactance to ‘Joe public’ in their masks.

Normally I and the rest of the Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre team aren’t massive fans of regular/ gratuitous use of treats, but these extraordinary Covid-19 circumstances warrant an ‘almost any means necessary’ approach in the short-term. So, for once, my message would be “treats, treats, treats” – with a caveat to exercise caution in the amount used each time.

I have to say that our furry clients and their humans have been dealing very well with all of us at the SLVC practices when we have donned our very fetching PPE. Don’t forget that we are only a phone call away if you need us!

Until next time; stay safe (still socially distanced!), stay well, and be happy 🙂