WELLFLEET — Though canines won’t be receiving a stimulus check, that doesn’t mean they haven’t been affected by the coronavirus crisis.
Because of your dog’s acute ability to sense stress in people, it might be just as stressed out as you are, according to Sadie Hutchings, a veterinarian at Herring Cove Animal Hospital in Provincetown.
“They can’t understand that you are stressed about the pandemic, or because you just watched the news,” Hutchings said. “They just sense your increased anxiety, which, in turn, makes them anxious.”
Depending on the dog, anxiety can cause a variety of behavioral patterns. Most often, a stressed dog might begin chewing on objects that it otherwise wouldn’t touch, or start following its caretaker around the house, or even bark at nonthreatening sounds.
Despite the increase in stress, Hutchings thinks the pandemic has been, overall, a positive development for our four-legged friends.
“Dogs enjoy people being home all the time,” she said. “Healthwise, a lot of dogs are getting more interaction with their owners, which is better for their well-being.”
Deborah Grabler, president and co-founder of Provincetown’s popular Pilgrim Bark Park, agreed that increased socializing is a good thing.
“Having this park gives [dogs] a slice of normalcy, where they can run free and off leash,” said Grabler. “It also gives owners an excuse to venture out. With happier, less frightened owners, you have happier, less frightened dogs.”
All that quality time between dogs and owners does not always mean decreased aggression, though. In fact, in some cases, it has led to the opposite.
In June, Wellfleet dealt with three dog-bite incidents, a much higher number than usual, according to animal control officer Desmond Keough.
The reason, according to Keough, is twofold.
First, there are more frequent home deliveries, with many people ordering supplies online instead of venturing out to shop, which has led to multiple attacks on delivery people, Keough said.
The other factor is the increased contact between pets and people in homes.
“With so many people working from home, and an increase in second-home owners sheltering on the Cape — with many doing outdoor activities like biking, walking, often with dogs — there is an increase in dog-people interactions,” Keough said.
A case in point is Wellfleet’s most recent dog-bite incident. On June 18, a three-year-old girl was bitten by a pit bull while visiting family in Wellfleet. The child suffered two puncture wounds under her eye and was taken to Cape Cod Hospital, where she received stitches.
According to Keough, the dog was being kept outside while the dog’s owner and guests were having a barbecue, but someone left a screen door open that allowed the dog back inside.
The girl was playing with the dog’s water bowl when she was bitten.
The dog had been properly vaccinated and was quarantined for the mandatory 10 days to ensure no rabies symptoms developed.
There will be no public hearing about the incident or effort to ban the dog from town, according to Keough.
But he expects to see a further increase in bites on beaches, which he deals with every summer.
With more people going out now, more dogs will be left alone at home, which might cause further harm to man’s best friend, according to Hutchings.
“It’s going to be difficult with people going back to work and creating a separation issue,” she said.
With pets so used to having their owners around all the time, a sudden change in the amount of interaction might result in mental health issues for dogs.
“Hopefully,” Hutchings said, “people are preparing their pets by being away from home in small increments, keeping them busy with toys, and just distracting them and not reminding them they are alone.”