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Help your pet adjust to changing routines of coronavirus response

Help your pet adjust to changing routines of coronavirus response

From the May's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: Cases rise, judge rules that state can keep nursing home data from public series
  • Updated

A fluffy pup yips and hops on your coworker’s lap during a Zoom meeting. Coos, oohs and aahs ensue.

Hunkering down, working and learning from home during the COVID-19 pandemic means more attention to pets and the need for your furry office pal to adapt to changing circumstances.

One of the silver linings of sheltering in place may be people and their pets forging closer relationships, says Evan MacLean, director of the Arizona Canine Cognition Center.

The Humane Society of Southern Arizona and the Pima Animal Care Center report significant increases in adoptions and fostering pets in the early weeks of the state-ordered shutdown.

The stay-home time allowed shelter pets to acclimate to their new homes, says Kristen Hassen, director of Animal Services of Pima Animal Care Center.

“Dogs are loving this time and contact with people,” says MacLean.

While the bonding time is beneficial and enriching for both pets and people, a change of routines can be stressful and overwhelming for pets, especially ones that are new to a home. Here are some ideas to navigate the coronavirus-triggered togetherness, especially as humans slowly venture out of their homes again.

PETS NEED SPACE TOO

Being around children who want to constantly hug and tug the dog can be too much, says Danielle Hagedorn, canine behavior programs specialist at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.

Kiddos dash around quickly, make loud, squeaky noises, and are closer to a dog’s eye level, which can be exciting and frightening to the pooch.

Even dogs that have had experience around children can become overwhelmed, says Stephen Szostek, canine enrichment specialist at the Humane Society.

Hagedorn and Szostek encourage parents to watch children and the dog, teach children dog-appropriate behavior, such as how to touch the dog nicely, not pull his fur and stay away from the dog’s face.

Learn your canine’s body language, says McClean.

Tail wagging is a sign of arousal, not happiness, MacLean says.

A dog wagging his tail can be expressing many emotions and does not necessarily indicate his readiness to interact.

Averting eye gaze and turning of the head to avoid looking at you, pacing, salivating, panting and yawning are some indicators that your pet might be overwhelmed or feeling stress, MacLean says.

Give your dog “time out,” suggests Hagedorn. “The whole family has space.”

Whether it is a kennel or a quiet corner, the dog needs space, too.

OVER INDULGING

Like most humans, “dogs love to eat” and feeding is a way of interacting, says anthropologist MacLean.

Too many treats can mean gaining weight, and unhealthy foods and too many human nibbles may cause gastrointestinal problems.

“Don’t overindulge every treat,” says Michael Kaufman, president of the Southern Arizona Veterinary Medical Association

BACK TO WORK

As restrictions ease and people return to work, pets must adapt from 24/7 attention to being left for long periods.

Make the change gradual, says MacLean.

Leave your pet alone for short periods at first and gradually lengthen the time you’re away, suggests Hassen.

If possible, work away from home for half-days or every other day to ease the transition for Fido, MacLean says.

Leave toys to help prevent boredom, says Szostek.

Hassen suggests considering a second pet. Like humans, pets fare better with companionship, she says.

Learn more about your dog and his ability to calm himself by setting up a video recorder in your home, says Hagedorn.

For separation anxiety that results in destructive behavior like ripping and shredding the sofa, Szostek suggests consulting with a professional animal behavior consultant.

“Think about pets like people,” says Hassen. “The more they are socialized, the healthier and happier they are.”

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