Dogs spooked by masks


PROTECTIVE masks may be inconvenient and even intimidating for some humans, but they can be downright confusing for dogs.

Dog owners are reporting behavioural changes in their pets since wearing masks in public became mandatory as part of the battle to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Lost Dogs’ Home says masks conceal facial expressions, which are one of the ways dogs communicate with humans.

Masked-up owners are reporting changes to their dogs’ “happy go lucky personalities” and displays of “fearful behaviours”.

“Traditionally dogs are creatures of habit, so instantly changing routine without a rational explanation can cause anxiety,” the home’s animal behaviour team leader Jade Curry said.

As well as advising dog owners to “give them space and don’t force them to approach [ someone wearing a mask]”, Ms Curry said dogs should be counter-conditioned by being offered a treat “regardless of their behaviour”.

“They will begin to associate scary people wearing masks with treats, which will change their emotional response from fear to excitement.

“If a dog is particularly anxious or frightened by people wearing masks, this may impact their ability to interact with other dogs if they’re fearful of the person on the other end of the lead.”

Another tip to get dogs used to seeing people in masks is to speak clearly as masks muffle voices and make it harder for them to pick up commands.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 28 July 2020


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