Most of us assumed our pets would be ecstatic when we had to shelter at home during the pandemic. After all, why wouldn't they be thrilled? We humans would be available 24/7 for belly rubs and treats (maybe), and our dogs would get more walks than ever before. The reality for many pets was less happy and more neurotic, and even destructive, with some animals excessively grooming, hissing, barking, or following owners everywhere they went. It was a head-scratcher — but to animal behaviorists, it made perfect sense.
There are several factors that have made animals behave oddly during the pandemic. With the entire family home all day, living spaces can be far busier and more chaotic — and while some animals may enjoy the increase in interaction, others may miss having downtime.
Those more frequent walks that dogs should be thrilled about? You may notice that more people in your neighborhood are also walking their dogs a lot more often, so what's meant to be an opportunity for a pet to get exercise can also be a source of stress, as they may be encountering more animals than in the past.
What all animals are likely experiencing, though, is a jarring shift in their daily routines. Animals are creatures of habit, and when owners are likely changing (or, worse, forgetting) their usual schedules, animals can feel insecure and may become clingy and anxious.
Pets' behavior is also influenced by how the humans around them are feeling. If you are stressed over a job loss or worried about becoming sick, your pets will likely respond with displacement behaviors such as sneezing, yawning, and compulsive paw-licking.
It should come as no surprise that, during this stressful time for humans, animals aren't feeling great either. While it may be a while before things get back to normal for both you and your pets, consider ways to help them feel better, whether that's including them in a workout or giving them the attention (or space) they need.