The wearing of masks may only be a recommendation in NSW currently with COVID-19 guidelines, but current events in Victoria remind us how quickly that change into a mandatory rule.
If our pets are not used to seeing us with face coverings, this can be a confusing and sometimes fearful experience for them.
Our pets have evolved to learn to read our facial expressions to assess not only our mood but also behavioral demands that we ask of them.
These facial expressions, when hidden by a mask can become confusing for some pets.
For pets with a nervous or timid nature or anxiety issues, this can heighten those problems.
You can de-sensitize or at least help to make them more relaxed when you are wearing a mask by familiarising them with the mask. Introduce the mask in a calm setting like your home.
Begin by letting your pet smell the mask so that the scent of it becomes familiar (just like their favorite Vet practice!).
To begin, wear the mask so that it only partially covers your face while interacting with your pet and slowly cover more of your face as they become accustomed to the mask.
Wearing the mask at home with your pet for short periods of time will help them to become more relaxed with the mask.
Should they show any signs of distress such as lip licking, shaking, pacing or cowering - remove the mask and try the process again later.
Remember to speak to them in an upbeat tone while wearing the mask.
The comfort of hearing your voice will help them to adjust and be mindful that your voice may also be muffled depending on the type of mask you have.
You may need to speak slightly louder but be careful that it doesn't turn into a shout as your furry friend may interpret this them being in trouble.
Of course, treats will help the training process and by giving positive rewards, your pet will be more likely to respond in a positive manner.
There is very limited evidence of animals contracting COVID-19 and no evidence that they can pass the virus onto us.
For this reason, you should not need to mask your pet to protect them from the virus.
However, should you be in isolation or waiting for test results, we do recommend that you wear a mask when interacting with your pet as well as trying to limit your time with them along with practicing a good hygiene regime.