An unexpected blessing during this unusual year has been the beautiful bonding time with existing or new furry family members. Our critters have experienced the ebbs and flows right along with us, and while many have flourished with the added time with their human parents, many pets have felt added stressors.
- Our furry family members need “alone time” too. While some animals (looking at you, happy Labradors!) have thrived with added time with their humans, some dogs and cats are accustomed to and need more “personal” space during the day. If your pet wants to sleep through that tenth walk or play session of the day, try to respect that wish.
- Schedules have been completely changed. Animals like schedules. Try to maintain little routines and consistencies throughout the ever-changing schedules so that some things can still be relied upon.
- Masks can be scary. While many cats and dogs have adapted well, masks may still bring fear to some, particularly to those indoor kitties that may not have seen our masked faces much. Slow and patient “desensitization” to the mask and “counterconditioning” by giving treats and praise during training are paramount to helping with this fear.
Going forward into an unpredictable future, here are some things to consider:
- Ensure newly adopted critters receive adequate socialization. As our social circles have been mindfully adapted, so too have our animals’. Make sure that pets (particularly our newly adopted pups), receive adequate socialization, while still maintaining safety as the top priority.
- Help pets adapt to potential future changes. For those pups and kitties that have enjoyed spending all the hours of the day with you, add a few practice trips away from them. That way, if life takes you away from home a bit more in the future, they are not shocked by the transition. To help, provide your animals with new experiences and confidence-building exercises like positive reinforcing training and tricks, and food puzzles (see link below for more details and ideas).
Appreciate the incredible resilience of our animal family members, but also do not forget to respect their boundaries and struggles through this most unusual time. Remember to give them an extra hug for their love but only if they want one! And, as always, with any further questions, reach out to your veterinarian.
– Dr. Emily Andersen, DVM, CVA, CVFT
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