Around the world, face masks are becoming the norm with COVID-19 and the protection we all seek. Slowly, as countries are opening up, people are, more and more, wearing personal protective equipment and especially face masks. Whether they are homemade or store-bought, these masks might be scary or even confuse our dogs. In fact, dogs may actually be triggered by people wearing masks. So, it is imperative that you, as a pet parent, learn how to teach your dog to accept face masks on people by following these steps.
If you’ve ever seen your dog react to strangers that were bundled up, sporting a hat, a turban, or even a beard, then you will understand the importance of teaching your dog how to accept people wearing face masks.
Dogs look at our expressions for social cues. Now, as half our faces are covered by surgical masks, it’s certain to confuse dogs, and possibly frighten them.
Here’s how to teach your dog to ignore face masks people are wearing in this pandemic.
1) Make the mask OK!
2) Even though your dog knows you, seeing you with the mask makes you look different.
3) Condition your dog to the mask.
- Get out a treat and let him sniff the mask.
- Make sure that the hand holding the treat is close to your face so that the dog sees your mask when practising this step.
- Kneel down to the level of your dog and slowly put on the mask.
- Lower the mask so your dog can see your face again.
- Quickly, but calmly, offer your dog another treat.
- Put on the mask again.
- Now give your dog a treat.
- Repeat this step several times while praising him verbally.
- Keep saying “Good boy (or girl)” while wearing the mask. This way, your dog hears your voice.
4) Take your time — there’s no need to rush.
Rinse and repeat, calmy. If your dog is paying too much attention to the mask, divert the attention to the treat. Then, if there is still a problem, raise the mask only to cover the mouth, which will allow your dog to see more of your face. Then, give him a treat and let him hear your voice. Follow the step until your dog is comfortable with you wearing the mask. Keep in mind it will take treats and praise until you get that mask right up to where it’s supposed to be.
5) Wear the mask at home.
In order to condition your dog to the mask, practice wearing it at home until it becomes second nature to your dog.
One goal is to have your dog associate the mask with something good. The other goal is to ensure that your dog is not triggered by the mask or try to play with it. Instead, your dog should be completely neutral to the mask.
Watch the video created by Robert Cabral, a canine behaviorist, for a step-by-step guide on how to teach your dog to accept face masks on people.