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Getting your dog used to seeing people wearing face masks reading-time-icon 2 min read

With lockdown restrictions slowly easing and face masks becoming part of life, especially in public places, the world sure is looking a bit different in 2020.

We humans understand why wearing a face mask is so important, but getting dogs used to seeing face masks is a different ball game.  

No dog owner wants to see their beloved pet confused or distressed. Thankfully, while your dog will never understand why we use face masks, there are measures you can take to help them learn that masks are nothing to be afraid of. With the right training, your dog will even grow to associate them positively.

Here’s how to get your dog to be comfortable with you wearing a mask.  

Take it slow

Remember to take it slow, to act natural around your dog and to reward their positive behaviour. Be patient, and remember to stop if your dog seems stressed or uncomfortable. 

Introducing the mask 

People in masks are just… you guessed it… people! Before long, your dog will know this too, and will be comfortable going about their business - even on public transport!

Start out by simply showing your dog the mask. Don’t wear it at this point, just hold it in your hand and let them take a closer look. They’ll soon suss out that the mask is not a threat. 

Once your dog has seen the mask, reward them with a treat. This will help them associate the sight of the mask with positive experiences. 

Read more: Dog vaccinations: keeping your puppy happy and healthy.

Wearing the mask

Once your dog is familiar with your trusty face covering, try putting it on in front of them. Leave it for a few seconds, acting calm and natural all the while; remember to watch your body language too - don’t do anything that will shock your pet.

woman wearing a mask and putting up her thumb

Offer your dog treats while you’re wearing the mask, and speak in a calm, positive voice. Engage in fun activities with your dog, that way they’ll associate the mask with playful excitement and not just treats.

Increased exposure

Repeat the last point a few times during the day. Aim to do this at different times too, so your dog sees you putting on your mask as a natural occurrence. Next, get your family or other members of your household on board, just remember to do it one at a time, and not to overwhelm your pup. 

Entering a room wearing your mask

Yup… you guessed it! Once your dog is comfortable with the above, begin to enter rooms while already wearing your mask, instead of putting it on while your dog can see. The same rules apply: do this gradually, and make sure you continue to reward your dog.

Once they’re comfortable with this, step things up again by entering the house while wearing a mask. 

Walking your dog

Now you can focus on taking your dog out for walks. 

Bring a pack of treats with you on your walks, and be sure to reward your dog whenever you encounter a stranger wearing a mask. 

Remember: patience is key

You know your dog better than anyone, and some dogs adapt better than others to changes in their environment. Be patient with your dog - you may need to repeat this process a few times, or even go back a step once in a while but with enough perseverance, your dog will be used to seeing people wearing masks in no time! 

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.

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