In many parts of the country, face masks are recommended, often mandatory, for humans as we begin to return to work, as businesses begin to open, and as we return some semblance of normal daily life.
However, while masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are meant to add a layer of protection as we venture out into the world, they can actually be quite scary, confusing, or triggering for our dogs. Luckily, it’s easy to teach your dog to accept and ignore face masks if you follow a few simple steps.
If you have a dog that reacts to people wearing hats or people with beards, you already know how challenging it can be to keep your dog calm and content in public places.
Now, with humans around the world suddenly wearing face masks, it won’t be uncommon for many dogs—who have been proven to watch our facial expressions for social cues— to become confused or fearful by the “new normal.”
Luckily, with a little time and some tasty treats, you can quickly teach your dog to accept (and, more importantly, to ignore) face masks worn by people.
Canine behaviorist Robert Cabral created the following video to demonstrate to pet parents how to teach their dogs to become comfortable with people wearing masks:
To summarize, begin at home, in a safe, comfortable environment. With high-value treats (bits of meat or cheese work great for this exercise!) first introduce your dog to the mask. Show the mask to your dog and give a treat.
Next, put the mask on your own face. When your dog looks at you, give a treat. Pull the mask down to your chin, give a treat. Speak through the mask, give your dog cues, put the mask on and off, etc., all while treating your dog. Make sure your dog knows you’re under the mask.
If at any point during the session, your dog seems too interested in the mask, either trying to get it, showing any signs of fear while you’re wearing it, slow down and go back to the last successful step in the training process.
Additionally, while you’re wearing a mask, avoid approaching unknown dogs that may be fearful.
How has your dog responded to people in face masks? How have you dealt with this new normal? Weigh in with a comment below!