News and Media

Pet owners urged to help their dogs get used to seeing them with masks on

July 27, 2020

Humans are not the only ones having a hard time getting used to the practise of wearing masks when outside with dog owners reporting different behaviour from their pets when their pets observe them wearing a mask.

The Lost Dogs’ Home says pooches would be used to seeing their owners’ mouth and nose and reading our facial expressions is one of the way dogs communicate with us. The Home has received numerous enquiries from members of the public concerned their dog was not showing its happy go lucky personality when going for a walk and displaying fearful behaviours.

“Traditionally dogs are creatures of habit so instantly changing routine without a rational explanation can cause anxiety in dogs. If people do notice a change in their dog’s behaviour, give them space and don’t force them to approach,” said animal behaviour team leader Jade Curry.

“Instead begin counter-conditioning (when you walk past a person on the street, offer your dog 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. “Associate people wearing masks with treats. This is counter-conditioning training, this involves changing the animal’s association with a scary stimulus (person) from a negative to positive.”

Jade says although not all dogs will react in an adverse manner to the masks, it is important to be extra observant of your dog’s behaviour around people as they may exhibit increased signs of stress of fear if they are worried about people wearing masks.

“Most dogs will have never seen people wearing masks before and so they might find it scary or intimidating, which may cause anxiety in some dogs,” she says. “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.”

The Lost Dogs’ Home has the following Top 3 Tips for pet owners:

  1. Associate people wearing masks with treats.
  2. Speak clearly as your voice may sound muffled through the mask making it harder for your dog to pick up commands.
  3. If people do notice a change in their dog’s behaviour, give them space and don’t force them to approach people. Instead begin counter-conditioning (when you walk past a person on the street, offer your dog 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.

For further information or to organise interviews please contact:

Suzana Talevski
T: 03 9321 8719
M: 0436 836 836
E: Suzana.talevski@dogshome.com