As the world continues to navigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, face masks have become essential to daily lives. As responsible pet owners, many have been wearing face masks to protect themselves and others from the virus. Yet, have you ever wondered what your dog thinks about your face mask?
Do they perceive them as a threat or as something harmless? Discover the science behind how dogs perceive their surroundings and how face masks can affect their perceptions.
The Science Behind Dogs and Face Masks
Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell to understand their surroundings. They use their noses to identify people, objects and even emotions. These animals are also highly attuned to human facial expressions and body language. They can read your feelings and intentions by interpreting your facial expressions, tone of voice and body posture.
One study in the journal of Animal Cognition found dogs can process certain human facial expressions and tend to focus on the eyes more than the mouth or midface. They can also distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar faces, and can even identify individuals based on their facial features.
Interestingly, dogs don’t rely on facial features as much as humans do to identify emotions. While humans focus on the eyes and mouth to read emotions, dogs tend to pay more attention to overall facial expressions and body language.
What Do Dogs Think About Face Masks?
Since dogs rely on our facial expressions and body language to interpret human emotions, what happens when you wear a face mask around your dog? What does your pet think about face masks and do dogs recognize you with one on?
Many pet owners have wondered how their furry friends feel about the sudden surge in face masks. While dogs may not have the cognitive ability to understand the concept of face masks fully, they pick up human emotions by reading a person’s facial expression.
However, a facemask can significantly alter a pet owner’s face, making it more challenging for dogs to read their owner’s emotions. Nevertheless, with time and exposure, most dogs can adapt to their owner wearing a face mask and still recognize you and your feelings through specific cues, including tone of voice, body posture and eyes.
Though, dogs may also be affected by how the face masks smell or sound. Depending on their personality, some dogs may be frightened or confused by the sight of their owner wearing a face mask. Meanwhile, others may be completely unfazed.
Remember, dogs are highly adaptable and can adjust to their owner’s behavior and appearance changes. As long as you continue to provide love and affection to your furry companion, they will likely weather the current pandemic with the same resilience they have experienced with all challenges in life.
Signs Your Dog Is Uncomfortable With Your Face Mask
As mentioned earlier, dogs are highly attentive to human emotions and behavior and may react differently to a person wearing a face mask. While some dogs may not be bothered, others may feel uncomfortable or stressed when they see one. Here are some signs your dog may be uncomfortable with your face mask:
- Avoidance: If your dog is actively avoiding you or seems hesitant to approach you when wearing a mask, this could be a sign they’re uncomfortable. They may perceive the mask as a threat or be confused by the sudden change in your appearance.
- Vocalization: Your dog may be showing signs of stress or anxiety if you see them barking, whining, growling or making other vocalizations while you’re wearing a mask. They may be trying to communicate their discomfort or fear to you.
- Body language: Your dog’s body language can also explain their feelings. If they are quivering, shaking or exhibiting other signs of stress, this could be a sign they’re uncomfortable with your face mask.
- Aggression: In some cases, a dog’s discomfort with a face mask may escalate to aggression. If your dog is growling, snarling or biting when you wear one, taking this seriously or seeking professional help is essential.
If you notice any of these signs, you can take steps to help your dog feel more at ease.
Tips for Helping Your Dog Adjust to Your Face Mask
If you notice your dog is stressing around your face mask, follow these tips to help them adjust.
1. Gradual Exposure
One of the best ways to help your dog adjust to a face mask is to introduce them gradually to the concept. Start by letting them sniff the cover first and wearing it around the house for short periods, then gradually increase the duration. This will let your dog get used to the mask’s sight, sound and smell.
2. Positive Reinforcement
Use treats and positive reinforcement to create positive associations with the face mask. Whenever you put the mask on, offer your dog a treat or praise them for being calm and relaxed. This will help them see the mask as a positive rather than a threat.
If your dog is particularly anxious around the mask, try leaving it out in a visible place. That way, they can get used to it being around. They will eventually become familiar with the mask and reduce their anxiety.
Your dog’s discomfort with the mask may be particularly severe. If that’s the case, consider seeking guidance from a veterinarian or professional dog trainer. They can develop a training plan to help your dog adjust to the mask and feel more comfortable around it.
Remember to have patience and be gentle with your dog as they adjust to the new normal of face masks. By taking the time to help them acclimate, you ensure they feel safe, happy and loved.
Nurturing a Stronger Bond With Your Pet: Helping Them Adjust to Face Masks
While it may not be clear what your dog thinks of your face mask, you know how you present yourself can profoundly impact their emotional well-being. Keep paying attention to your pet’s behavior and take steps to help them feel comfortable.
By implementing these tips and staying attuned to your pet’s needs, you can deepen your bond with them and create a happier, healthier relationship in the long run.