From physical isolation to economic uncertainty, the COVID-19 pandemic has left many of us feeling more on edge and stressed about what the future will bring. As stay-at-home orders were implemented and social distancing became the norm, we were forced to adapt to drastic changes in our routines with little warning. All the COVID-19 uncertainty and this unprecedented time hasn’t only been challenging for us, it’s been a stressful situation for our dogs too.
By the end of March, dogs were suddenly spending their entire day with their owners. Abrupt change is difficult for most pets to process and the dramatic shift in their routine may have caused some to feel stressed. To make matters worse, dogs can recognize our anxiousness and make it their own.
While many across the nation may welcome the return back to some sense of normal life, this transition can also pose problems for your four-legged family member. Since dogs are now used to being showered with love all day, yours may display signs of stress when you do start to leave the house more frequently.
The Kradle team interviewed four pet-parents across the country to see how their pups are managing quarantine and how they plan to prepare them for the transition back to normalcy.
Rusty & Iris: Nervous in New Hampshire
A teacher in New Hampshire, Andi is the owner of two Australian Shepherds, Rusty and Iris, and has been living with them, as well as her husband and mother-in-law. In what has been a change from her typical routine, Andi now spends a large portion of her free time going on long walks with her pups. She said, “We would walk them [before quarantine], but not as much as we did during quarantine.”
Andi believes her dogs, especially Rusty, have noticed her heightened stress over the last few months. While Iris has been showing affection and offering more cuddles, Rusty has become protective and barks at strangers more than usual. To keep Rusty calm when new people visit her home (in a rare social distancing sort of way), Andi has found it helpful to have him meet the guests outside first and then have them come in.
With the number of cases in New Hampshire relatively low compared to other states, Andi has started to leave the house more and more attending to lunch dates, salon visits, etc. She has been putting Rusty in his kennel when she leaves, which has been helping calm his nerves so far, but still has concerns about how both of her dogs will handle the transition if she returns to teaching in-person come fall. She noted, “I am a little nervous to see how they will do without having someone at the house most of the day.”
Muttley & Noonan: Happier Than Ever in Minnesota
Jackson is a college student who has been sheltering in place at his parents’ home with them, along with his younger brother and two Golden Retrievers in Minnesota. His pups, Muttley and Noonan, have been loving all of the attention they’ve been getting from him and all. With many restrictions still in place, Jackson has been spending his time playing frisbee with his dogs, one of their favorite activities.
Though he’s starting to feel a little bit stir-crazy and anxious about whether he will return to campus in the fall, Jackson doesn’t think that his dogs have picked up on any of it. He actually thinks his dogs, who he describes as “normally very cheery,” have been even happier with everyone home.
Given all of the extra time his dogs have been getting with him, Jackson acknowledges he’s “unsure what will happen to them when I go back to school.” However, Jackson says the transition back to an empty house will be gradual — his dad will continue working from home and his brother’s high school will likely not be fully in-person, so he believes his dogs will be able to adjust smoothly.
Jasmine and River have recently traveled a great deal and added a new pup to their household, but have still managed to stay calm during quarantine.
Jasmine & River: Staying Bi-Coastal Calm
Camilla and her two dogs, both Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, have quite literally gone from coast to coast during quarantine. She spent the first months in Colorado with her parents and their dog River, and in May traveled to California to rescue their senior dog Jasmine. Later in June, the entire family drove all the way back to their residence in New York City, which is where they’ve been staying ever since.
Even with the significant changes both have experienced in the last few months, from the long road-trips to the addition of an adorable new family member, Jasmine and River have been managing well and staying so calm they’ve taken on the role of comforting others. In those moments when she feels more stressed, Camilla said of her pups, “They are more willing to sit on my lap or side and just be there for comfort.”
As New York slowly starts to open back up after getting hit hard in the beginning, Camilla plans to continue working from home and only venture out for essential errands or exercise. Much like other pet parents, Camilla is nervous about how her dogs will handle her leaving the house more, explaining “I don’t want them to become too needy that they won’t let me leave.” Her solution to keeping them calm post-quarantine will be to give them treats when she leaves and “lots of love” when she returns.
Breck: Sensing Stressful Transitions in Arizona
With a daughter back from college, two adults working from home, and a 15-year-old dog, Mardi has been living in a full house in Arizona. While her family quickly adapted to their new routines, her black Lab Breck was a bit confused at first by suddenly having everyone in the house 24/7. Soon after though, Breck started to appreciate having them around and even begged for more attention at times.
As she helps her daughter prepare to return to campus and her son move into a new apartment, Mardi has felt a bit more stressed than usual trying to manage it all during a pandemic. On whether Breck can sense her stress, Mardi said, “I do think Breck is picking up on it all. He sees our daughter packing things up…staging all her items in our garage. He knows there is a transition a brew.”
Since cases in Arizona are still spiking and with temps topping 117 degrees, Mardi and her family have continued to hunker down inside. When they do start to leave the house again, Mardi believes it will be a difficult transition for Breck. To remedy any potential anxious feelings, she intends to “watch him more closely, give him lots of love and attention and more brief walks.” With this plan, Mardi is hopeful her pet will persevere through the tough time.
Top Takeaways from Pet-Parents
We found that every dog has reacted differently to the changes the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon them and their families — while some have been happier and more affectionate, others have been stressed and acting out. One common theme, however, among the pet parents we spoke with is fear over how their dogs will handle them leaving the house when restrictions are lifted.
When the time comes, dogs in households across America are going to have to adjust all over again to what life was like pre-quarantine just as they adjusted when we all sprung into the home in mid-March. From extra treats to frequent short walks, these four pet parents have offered a variety of solutions for helping pups stay calm during this transition. While there isn’t one right solution, easing your dog back into their old routine (meaning grooming, feeding and walking them at the same time each day) and giving them alone time is a good place to start.
Returning to our normal lives will be an adjustment for us too after spending so much time with our furry family member, but thinking proactively about how to best prepare your dog for the transition now will make it a smoother transition for all.
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