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If you are looking for lockdown fans, animals may be the only ones sticking their paws up right now.
Dog playing with rope toy – stock image. Source: istock.com
When everything is closed, there isn’t much to do other than walk the dog or play with a furry cat. But how many walks are too much and can you tire your own pet?
Animal behaviorist Mark Vette says it is important to socialize dogs and keep training them during lockdown to ensure they don’t experience stress or separation anxiety after the lockdown ends.
“The main risks are that they will become a little more protective and reactive with people and other dogs because they haven’t seen them in a while and they don’t show any problem behavior.”
Vette uses clicker training under warning level 4 for this.
“You have your social distancing rules so stay away from other people, at least three or four feet away, and just put the dog down and use a ‘look’ command and an ‘up-look’ command and they click, reward them for looking and behaving socially, you know they don’t bark at and do not threaten. They just watch them and are aware of people but don’t hyperreact. “
He says that without continued socialization, dogs become anxious and can react to everyday noises.
“If you make them fearful and suspicious and start barking at things and reacting, that will come about and become their kind of coping mechanism and behavior towards people and dogs, which we don’t.” want of course. We want to keep them sociable. “
Vette says even if every member of the family takes the dog for a walk, it’s uncommon for them to be overexcited.
“Of course, with the smaller breeds and the giant breeds, you have to be a little more careful about how much exercise you give them and adapt to their breed, but since they are usually a healthy dog, they can run really well.
“But you have to get them fit just like everything else, if you want to run a lot more with them then they have to get fit with you. So you just extend the time so that you have the opportunity to get fit as you need to. But I can tell you from my own experience that most families generally do not over-stimulate their dog, but rather under-stimulate them. I would recommend people, the whole family, to get involved. “
He says cats are less easy to care for.
“The old adage that dogs have owners and cats have staff is probably very true.”
“Cats are by nature loners. Going back to their ancestral cats, the Felis Silvestris Lybica who was the ancestral cat. But the good thing is that they don’t worry as much about you or your behavior as long as you feed them and with you bypassing them and continuing to be friends, they are as happy as Larry and the longer you are at home, the better they like it. “
Vette says animals are great for the mental health of people in lockdown.
“There are 10 or 15 benefits dogs have for us when we are closer to them, and they are all positive health things. They know they increase your heart health, they increase your dopamine levels, they increase your oxytocin levels. All of them these things are beneficial to humans, so it is good to be home with your pets. “
But when it comes to walking your dog in lockdown, microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles says it’s important to follow all level 4 guidelines and restrictions.
“When you go for a walk with your dog, put your mask on and keep him on a leash, this is really important. That will keep other people from petting your pet. “
Another question that is on everyone’s mind: Are you allowed to pet someone else’s dog or cat while you go on your daily lockdown walk?
Last year, minks in Europe became infected with Covid-19 and could transmit it to humans, and Denmark killed 17 million minks in November in response to the outbreaks.
And while Siouxsie Wiles says there are no confirmed cases of pets transmitting Covid-19 to humans, it is better to play it safe.
“As tempting as we are, I’d say leave it alone. If you had Covid-19, you are more likely to pass it on to your animal than the animal gives it to you. So maybe instead of thinking about your own health, think about it. “
When it comes to pets who have Covid-19 particles on their fur, Wiles says that while this is very unlikely, it cannot be ruled out.
“There were concerns that people who had Covid-19 would put virus particles on their pet. I mean, this may still be the case even with a virus in the air, but then the concern was that when people touch, you know they are being petted the animal that they would pick it up. “
“We have very little evidence of what we call this fomite transmission – transmission of inanimate objects – the only well-documented case we actually believed we had here in New Zealand with the bin lid looking like it was more aerosol transmission.” but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. “
Wiles says caution is the best way.
“While I know that petting other animals would be nice and probably really good for people’s mental health, I think you keep your hands to you and make sure everyone is masked outside.”