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Readjusting a Dog’s Response to Masks


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Q: “In my state, starting on May 1 masks are required when going to grocery stores, and preferred even out on walks. When things fully open up here, I am sure masks will be required in public places. Our dog, Daisy, barks whenever she sees anyone with a mask, even me. It’s like she doesn’t recognize family members with masks. She must be afraid. Do you have any advice?”  V. G., Chicago, IL

A: At one time, your dog may have served as a bank guard, barking at someone appearing with a mask. However, now customers wearing masks aren’t a cause for sounding an alarm.

Let’s fix this fast given today’s mask reality, so if it’s possible to use turkey hot dog or (low salt) cold cut meat, chop up small pieces and keep them in the fridge and ready to go. Begin working with your dog at home. Take out a mask, and simply hold it toward your face, far enough from your face so your dog isn’t too bothered, and simultaneously offer small pieces of cold cuts or turkey hot dogs – and I do mean very small pieces.

When your dog is actually seeking treats Daisy is actually hoping for that mask – in order to get the gold, then put on the mask. Begin to have family members do the same. All indoors, and always those amazing goodies are involved so Daisy associates the mask with the pieces of hot dog or cold cuts.

Soon enough Daisy should be fine indoors with family members. Wear a mask on a first walk, and hand deliver breakfast kibble on the walk, mixed with say around 10 percent of cut up cold cuts or hot dog  So the mix of kibble and hot dog or cold cuts smells like hot dog or cold cuts. When encountering another person with a mask on the walk, overload Daisy with the food/treat mix well before the person approaches. At first maintain a respectful distance from other mask wearers, but gradually over time allow that person to pass 6-feet in the other direction. Following social distancing rules, random mask wearers are not likely to be approaching anyway.

The goal, of course, is to associate those high valued treats with masks. In other words, if I was similarly concerned about seeing masks, but every time I saw a person with a mask $100 fell from the sky, it wouldn’t take long for me to readjust my view of masks.

Be safe.

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