The covid-19 pandemic has changed the lives of everyone. Many people are out of work while others work from home. Small businesses suffer under an ever-changing array of restrictions. Few people travel, fearing exposure to the virus. No one is unaffected, including our dogs.
As a pet care professional of over 25 years, I notice trends in animal behavior related to environment. One thing I see is the social behavior of city dogs versus the unsocial behavior of country dogs. City dogs, especially those living in apartments and flats, are taken out and walked a lot, so they are exposed to many different people and situations. Country dogs are sometimes not walked at all, spending their entire lives on one property. This lack of exposure can lead to unsocial behavior, especially with strangers. I’m generalizing, but you get the idea.
Lately, I have heard stories from owners of their dogs behaving fearfully when a visitor comes to the house, or aggressively towards an unknown dog outside. These dogs didn’t show this behavior before the covid lockdown. The isolation could be bringing out the worst.
Conversely, other dogs are doing better because their owners are working from home or out of work, so they take their dogs for long walks every day. I live on a busy street leading to a walking path by the river, and lately I have seen more people and dogs than ever before! My neighbors have a husky, and during quarantine they got another young one. I am happy to see them out walking for at least an hour every day, giving these active dogs the workout they need.
As social animals, dogs have a need to interact with others of their kind. While some dogs are best kept by themselves because of known aggression issues, others should have opportunities to walk and play with dog friends. There is no reason not to go on walks with your friends and neighbors and their dogs if you follow the safety guidelines of masking and social distance. You are much less likely to be exposed to disease pathogens in the open air than in an enclosed building like Walmart.
Like us humans, dogs need exercise and stimulation to feel well. If fear of covid is keeping you in the house, your dog is also suffering. Over the weeks and months this can lead to behavior problems and poor health … for both of you! If you don’t feel comfortable walking, hire a dog walker to help you. At this point pet sitters are aware of safety protocols and follow them; for example, no-contact picking up of the dog(s) to be walked, or handing off outside the house. Day care is another good option, whether in a sitter’s home or a boarding kennel that offers this service. The dogs can play and interact in supervised groups, satisfying their physical and social needs.
With the vaccine now available, hopefully we can resume travel and social activities for ourselves and our canine companions soon!
Article originally published in Cloverdale Connect.