How to introduce your dog to people wearing face masks

An infographic on how to train your dog to be ok around face masks
Face masks have become a part of everyday life, so it’s a good idea to get your pooch used to people wearing them as soon as you can.  

Introducing face masks to dogs

Introducing face masks to your dog will mean they are prepared for when you are out and about, surrounded by people wearing them . Start at home, where your dog is comfortable, take it slowly and make sure they stay relaxed.

You'll need:

  • Tasty treats
  • Something to cover your face, like a scarf or bandana
  • A face mask

Follow these steps and over time, with plenty rewards, they’ll soon be taking people in face masks in their stride.

Step one: Simply hold your hand over your mouth and nose for a moment then give your dog a treat. Repeat this several times so they get used to your face being slightly obscured and learn this means a treat is coming their way.

Step two: Next, keep talking as you cover your mouth and nose to get your dog used to hearing you speak without seeing your mouth moving. For dogs seeing our faces move is very important, so this might take a little time to get used to. Repeat several times so they’re comfortable listening to you talking with your face covered and then getting their treat.

Step three: Use a scarf or bandana and cover your mouth and nose for a little longer and reward your dog, so they learn that this isn’t anything to worry about.

Step four: As long as your dog appears relaxed, start to move around the room while your face is covered, talking to your dog and giving them treats as you go.

Step five: Introduce the face mask itself. Let your dog see you trying it on, then talk to them and move around as before while scattering treats or feeding them by hand. They’ll learn that seeing people walking and talking in face masks isn’t anything to be concerned about. 

Step six: Once your dog is comfortable with you wearing a face mask, start again from the beginning with others in the home so your dog feels comfortable no matter who has their face covered.

Now you’re ready to try outside in your garden or the street. Repeat any steps necessary so your dog is always relaxed. Take your mask out with you on walks and give your dog a treat every time you see anyone else wearing one.

Introducing dogs to children wearing face masks

When getting your dog used to children wearing masks, an adult must always actively supervise and be responsible for rewarding the dog. Keeping your dog on lead or behind a child gate gives both dog and child their own space in which to practice safely.

Introducing puppies to people wearing face masks

All puppies need to be introduced to new objects, sights and sounds in the first four months of life. This is when they learn about ‘normal life’ and work out what to make of all the new people and things they experience. Masks have become part of our everyday life and are going to be around for some time yet, so they’ll need to get used to those too. 

Why might dogs be afraid of face masks?

Not all dogs will be afraid of face masks, some may not be bothered at all. But it could be confusing for them to see faces covered because they are really good at reading our facial expressions to tell how we’re feeling. Now that face masks are a more usual part of our everyday lives, you need to teach your dog that they are nothing to worry about.

The easing of restrictions means that face masks aren’t the only thing that will be changing, and your dog may need some support as we start to move away from the normal they have become used to. Need some help navigating post-lockdown life with your pooch? Check out our hub for helpful tips and advice.