A friend of mine who is not a dog trainer or behaviorist, suggested to me that dogs may suffer from stress due to the current pandemic. That was very insightful of him. The more I thought about it the more likely it seemed. Therefore I am addressing this possibility.
Anytime your routine changes and your pet, (mostly dogs and cats) notice the change, it can stress them. In the case of being home bound, as opposed to going on vacation or visiting, you are more likely to spend more quality time with your pet. This may mean more play time, more cuddle time, and more people at home collectively giving the pet attention. The pet will enjoy this and most likely be happy. However, some dogs and cats do not like the extra attention, especially from children, because they can suffer from over-stimulation. In some cases the pet will give subtle warnings asking to be left alone, but many people will not recognize them. The result may be a bite or a scratch. It is especially important to watch older pets who may not be physically able to handle the extra attention. If your pet does not seem willing to engage with you, leave him alone.
Family members may use the extra home time to groom their pets more frequently. In the case of older pets it is important to be aware that if they suffer from arthritis or a sore muscle from the extra exercise, brushing may be anywhere from uncomfortable to painful.
If the pet is younger and getting more exercise, watch their weight because they may need to eat a little bit more food since they are burning more calories. This is especially true for younger and physically fit older dogs.
We know that our pets feel and understand our emotions. As the pandemic continues, some members in the family may become more upset and stressful, your pet may react to this. They may cling to you or follow you around whereas they did not before. They may mope, or even avoid being as near to you as they normally were. They may pant more frequently, pace, or even tremble as their stress level rises along with yours. They may also react if the family members become short tempered or there is discord in the family. This is especially true if there are children in the home and they become irritated because they cannot see their friends or go out to play. Some pets are more protective of children and may react to their stress more than they would to an adult. A great activity for children is to read to the pet. It is calming for everyone.
Don’t forget that your pet does not understand the change in the family dynamics. They only understand what they see and experience. Therefore, it is equally important to watch how your pet reacts when you return to work or your normal schedule. At this time your pet may react to the sudden shift from having companionship 24/7 to being alone.
Rest assured that your pet will not forget what normal life was like, they do have the ability to recall the past, but again, they will not understand the change. More importantly, they may not like the change. It was certainly more fun having the family around all the time. To ease the shift back to normal, try to give your pet as much attention as you can when you first return to your regular routine. Gradually ease back to the normal routine that you had with your pet.
Fortunately our pets are very adaptable so many will not show any signs of stress due to the changes in our daily lives. But it certainly helps to keep a careful eye on your pet and to be aware that they know something is going on. Because they love us and care, they may react as they feel is necessary. Most important of all, show them understanding if they react in a way that becomes annoying to you.
Other circumstances that cause stress for a pet are:
Moving to a new home
Adding a new family member
Losing a family member
Changing the normal routine
Working more or less hours
Adding a new pet
Losing a pet in a multiple pet household
If your pet becomes too difficult to handle, feel free to contact a certified behavior consultant at www.iaabc.org Many of us can offer phone consults.