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How The Pandemic Affects Our Pets

Pets are a lifeline for social interaction during the pandemic. But the uptick in time spent with our pets is a disruption to their schedules.

Senior Woman holding a Puppy

The doorbell rings more frequently due to deliveries. Pet owners are in the house longer. And when outside, the animals are seeing more people than usual. With these changes, it’s important to check in with your pet to see how they’re adjusting.

During a recent AARP Texas Facebook Live broadcast, Susan Williams of AARP’s Dallas office spoke with pet experts Taylor Chastain of AAI Advancement and Gina Fischer of Pet Partners about keeping our pets happy and healthy during the pandemic.

Since we’re home so much now, how can we enrich our pets’ lives?

Being with our pets for longer periods means we can also spend more time working on behaviors. Lately, Chastain has revisited obedience commands with her dogs. Online training videos can help teach a pet to sit, fetch and more. And for some, get advanced. “I’ve been working on my sign language with my dogs,” said Chastain.

Socialization is also important for pets. When packages are delivered, Fischer takes time to play outside with her dog on a leash and wave to the delivery driver. Fischer suggests even having your pet perform a trick.

I’m on a schedule at home, but my pets aren’t. How can we make sure our pets are on a comfortable schedule?

“Be very disciplined,” said Fischer. For example, if your pet needs to be crate trained, try to do that at the same time each day while you take a shower. Challenge yourself to keep yourself and your pets busy together. And remember, dog routines should work on a schedule, but it should also vary.

I’ve relied heavily on my dogs for the past few weeks on social companionship. How can we develop that bond?

People with pets at home are feeling supported, but you must support your pet as well. “Keep in mind that our pets relate to and look to us for emotional leadership,” saidd Chastain. We may find ourselves feeling more anxious and emotionally needy than normal, and our pets can take on those emotions. Strike that balance between leaning on them for comfort without overtaxing them in your emotional needs.

Fischer monitors signs for stress in her animals. This may look like your pet gnawing at their paws or shutting their eyes too tight. Anything different.

“Pay attention because they are trying to communicate with us,” said Fisher. She also provides beds and spaces for her pets to get away from humans. “If they need a break, respect that.”

When we do get out of the house, how can we get our pets ready for that now?

Start preparing your pets for distance from you. Fischer does this by sitting in her car and listening to a podcast or going outside and relaxing alone. “This is a challenging time and we’re putting a lot on our animals to make us feel better,” said Fischer. Start distancing yourself from them today and give them that time off.

Discover more about this topic from AARP Texas: You, your pets and COVID-19

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