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For Better, For Worse: You and Your Dog During Uncertain Times

By: Michelle Emery Blake, Ph.D., LCSW

We would be remiss not to mention that troubled times can influence daily life with your dog. Throughout the pandemic, there have been anecdotal reports of pets (as well as human children) being more likely to push their boundaries and get into trouble. Some of this is the change of routine—change of work schedules, more time at home, or perhaps less, if you are a healthcare provider, first responder, or other essential worker. Animals and children are usually quite intuitive about the emotional states of significant people in their lives, although they are not able to analyze their impressions that might help them manage their responses. In addition, fewer opportunities for activity and socialization may take their toll.

We have all heard that patience is a virtue. This may be true now more than ever before. We are coping with a complicated social environment that becomes more challenging every day. Your furry little one may need your reassurance they can still have safety and structure at home. Help prevent problems by keeping items that are fragile, dangerous, or otherwise off limits, where they are not accessible. If you and your dog have done obedience training, this may be a good time to practice familiar commands and maybe learn a new trick or two.

Of course, patience should extend to yourself as well. We are all a bit on edge. A friend commented that some days she just feels cranky, and I think most of us are right there with her. Extra treats, snuggle time, and something to laugh about are important for all members of the household.

The social unrest we are seeing may pose some special concerns for pet parents. The basic rule of thumb is to exercise good judgment and make your pet’s safety and your own your top priority. Since violent activities seem to escalate at night, you probably want to be back from your walk before dark. Regardless of your venue, or your characteristics, or your dog’s, keep your dog leashed at all times. Ensuring your dog’s safety means that you have to be in control at all times and ready to get out of there if a situation begins to look tense. The final potty break of the evening may be a concern. If your dog is small to medium, consider whether you might want to use indoor turf or piddle pads. If you have a fenced yard, a brief, supervised trip out may be a solution. If you absolutely must take your dog out, keep the leash on, stay close to the door, and be ready to get back inside quickly.

If you are worried about violence in your neighborhood, consider whether it might be worth boarding your dog or going to a pet-friendly motel for a few nights. If you have gone back to work, you want to avoid leaving your dog alone if you think there is going to be any kind of danger, so these options or trying out pet daycare might be an option. If this is not in the budget, do you have a friend who truly loves your dog and would keep him/her at their house while you are away?

The flip side of this is that you want to avoid having your dog with you if you must drive through an area in which violent activity seems likely, since it has the potential both to endanger your dog and impede your ability. Certainly, if you plan to attend any type of protest activity, leave your dog at home. It sounds as though even activities that have been thoughtfully arranged have sometimes turned violent. People cannot always predict what is going to happen, and with these uncertainties its best not to have to worry about your pup’s safety.

We care about our readers and, of course, your dogs. Please, everyone, let’s exercise empathy, compassion, and common sense. Everyone stay safe!

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