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How to make your dog feel comfortable around face masks

With face masks becoming the norm in supermarkets, on public transport and in other public places during the global pandemic, it’s important to ensure dogs become acclimatised to seeing people wearing masks, especially their owners.

Adapting to change

Your dog will often respond to your facial expressions and will use these to determine whether you are happy, sad, scared etc. If your face is covered by a mask, they may find this unsettling. Therefore, it’s important to introduce the face mask to them gradually.

Introduce the mask

Show your dog the face mask before wearing it. Let them get used to the way it looks and smells. Hang it up somewhere for a while so that your dog can get used to the sight of it. Choose a mask that isn’t too brightly coloured or patterned, because a mask of this sort is more likely to unsettle or frighten your dog.

Cover your face with your hand

Instead of donning the mask immediately, cover your mouth with your hand first. Reward your dog with a treat when they appear calm whilst you do this. Spend some time throughout the day going about your usual day to day routines and occasionally cover your face with your hand and reward your dog with a treat when you do so.

Wearing the mask

Start wearing the mask occasionally throughout the day in the same way that you did when you were covering your face with your hand. Wear the mask whilst you are going about your ordinary daily routine or even when you’re playing with your dog. Incorporating the mask into everyday play could help your dog to see it as a positive thing. Each time you wear the mask, reward your dog with a treat.

If your dog responds negatively to the mask, take it off and try wearing it again later when your dog is feeling calmer. You could also try wearing the mask on the top of your head or under your chin initially so that your mouth is still exposed before moving onto wearing the mask in the proper way. Go at your dog’s pace and ensure the introduction of the mask is gradual.

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