Many pet parents see training their pets as a one-and-done experience, not realizing that training is part of the journey you take with your pet throughout their whole lives. Training keeps their minds active and improves their behavior, but certain factors or situations can simply undo some of the training we have given our pets, especially as a result of situations that deviate from our usual routines. 

Freshpet recognizes that one of the biggest curveballs that we all faced, the COVID-19 pandemic, is one such situation that can impact our pets’ training. After all, many of us needed to change our routines, and some changes may have had negative effects on even the most solidified training regimens. 

Helping our pets stay properly trained is our responsibility as pet parents, but it can be a bit daunting to even fully understand why our pets may need to be retrained after the pandemic. Here, Freshpet explores a few potential reasons as well as how pet parents can help their furry friends adapt. 

Why Should I Retrain My Pet? 

As previously stated, Freshpet knows that there are a variety of experiences that can undo some of our pets’ training. It is important to remember that undone training is not always a reflection of mistakes on either you or your pet’s part. The case of the COVID-19 pandemic is an excellent example of this. Not many realized how quickly events would unfold, and, for many of us, ensuring our pets were not slipping in terms of training or behavior was not the highest priority.  

Now that the pandemic is looking like it is beginning to wind down in the US, we can finally devote some attention to our pets’ training. Freshpet understands that not every person will need to retrain their pet. This is because not every pet will exhibit any changes post-pandemic. For those that do, however, it is important to assess what our pets may need and how we can help.  

Naturally, evaluating our pets’ potential need for additional training is always easier when we have an idea of what we should look out for. 

The Pressures of Separation Anxiety

At the height of the pandemic, many of us were working from home and venturing out less to keep the spread of the virus minimal. Of course, as things begin to open back up, people are naturally going to be staying in less.  

Experts at various stages of the pandemic have estimated that separation anxiety may be a real problem for pets as we begin going out more. Not only can separation anxiety be extremely stressful for our pets, often impacting both their physical and mental health, but it can also be a fast track to destructive behaviors.  

A pet with separation anxiety may act out in a variety of ways, such as urinating or defecating indoors, exhibiting self-trauma, attempting escapes, or damaging property in our homes. This, of course, will necessitate some additional training. 

Luckily for pet parents, there are many ways that we can help our pets fight separation anxiety. By desensitizing our pets from our departure, introducing independence training, ensuring their exercise needs are met, and providing them a comfortable place to relax, we can help them with feeling less anxious when we’re out of the house. If issues persist, seeking professional help from a trainer or vet behaviorist is also a great option. They will know all the tricks of the trade for helping to reduce separation anxiety.

pet cat on sofa Even our pets that like their alone time can suffer from separation anxiety in our absence. Photo: Adobe Stock Photos

Pets May Need More Socialization After COVID 

Another aspect of COVID that can be potentially damaging to pets’ training is the lack of interaction with other people and animals during quarantine. In some of the most extreme examples, our pets may have grown fearful or even aggressive toward other people or animals. Fortunately for pet parents, there are ways that we can get our pets socialized to improve their behaviors around both. 

Socialization training is often best when it is gradual. Not only does it help ensure that we are not stressing out our pets, but it solidifies training much more efficiently than rushing. If your dog seems as though they may need more socialization post-COVID, help them achieve it in a manner that is safe and stress-free. For example, you may want to skip the dog park in favor of smaller interactions such as one-on-one playdates. 

It can also help to ensure that, when our pets see our human friends during visits to our house, our pets are not stressed by the encounter. This is because stressed animals (even typically friendly ones) can act unpredictably. By explaining social anxiety to your guests and making sure that your pet meets new people on their terms, you can socialize your furry friend slowly and safely. Patience is a virtue here!

Potty Training is a Must  

For pets such as dogs that need to be let outside to do their business, proper potty training is a must. After all, as we leave the house more, our pets will not be able to simply tap us to ask to be let out as often.  

Beyond the damage that lack of potty training can do to parts of a house such as flooring and furniture, it is also just gross! Freshpet recommends not getting carried away in anger when you are trying to reestablish a good bathroom routine, however.  

Freshpet notes that there are always ways that we can reinforce a potty-training schedule for our pets. Pets thrive off routine and want some organization in their lives. Letting our pets out at similar times daily helps make sure that they are not having accidents in the house. Some experts also recommend simply letting our pets out more to compensate for how their bathroom schedules may have changed. 

Whatever your preferred method for reinforcing potty training with your pet, remember that there is always assistance for matters such as these. If your pet is having accidents no matter what you do to help them, consider consulting a professional. They can help you evaluate your routine and recommend helpful changes. They can also give you an idea of if there may be a medical reason for the frequent accidents. 

Helping Our Pets is Our Responsibility  

The idea of needing to retrain our pets can be stressful at first, but there are always sources of support for pet parents who are having a difficult time. Retraining does not need to (and should not) all happen in a day. Take things gradually, and know that the need to retrain does not reflect negatively on you or your pet. Before you know it, you will see the positive changes and behaviors that you seek!