Expert tips for families living with new pets during COVID-19

Are you living with a new or fostered pet during COVID-19? Follow this list of tips and help your furry friend thrive!

During this period of great uncertainty, one bright spot has been the incredibly passionate response from people willing to open their homes and hearts to foster and adopt vulnerable shelter animals. At the ASPCA we have seen a nearly 70 percent increase in animals going into foster care through our New York City and Los Angeles foster programs, compared to the same time period in 2019. Even in times of crisis, Americans are stepping up to show their commitment to animals in need.

The suggestions below will help families set their new furry companions up for success through fun and engaging activities:

1. Socialize your pup

During this time, many have made the exciting commitment of welcoming home a new puppy. Spending much of the day at home means plenty of time to bond with your puppy, but special steps need be taken to prepare them for when daily routines return to “normal.” Pet parents should think about what their neighborhood and household is like under normal circumstances and find ways to get their pup familiar with that type of life, getting creative with socializing them to the world in and outside the home.

When socializing your puppy, always:

  • Introduce your pup to new experiences, objects, places, and people in a fun, positive way that allows him to feel safe. This is the best combination for building confidence.
  • Use treats and toys that your pup finds rewarding to help create positive associations.
  • Let your puppy decide when he wants to engage and disengage. Never force him to investigate something that he’s uncertain about.
  • Be watchful of your puppy’s body language to ensure he’s enjoying himself and recognize when he’s not.

2. Stay active

Boredom and excess energy are two common reasons for undesirable behavior in pets. While families are busy working and learning from home, it’s important for dogs and cats to do the same! In addition to physical exercise, there are many fun, and free, ways to give your dog or cat a mental workout from the comfort of your house.

 3. Alone time

When our regular work and school routines commence again, your dog or cat may be left confused (and lonely!) once everyone is rushing out the door instead of spending time at home. Even while you and your family are home, start to prepare your pet by designating time for him to spend comfortable time alone throughout the day. 

  • Create a cozy, inviting place for your new dog or cat to nap away from all the activity of remote work and school. You can put on some soothing music or radio.
  • When giving your pet time away from you, offer your dog something to keep him busy, like a chew or puzzle toy.
  • There are many free game apps for cats to play with on their own. You can also find battery-operated toys online that may keep your cat busy and happy on their own.
  • Leave your home and take a stroll outside without your dog occasionally to practice leaving the house for short durations.


Dr. Pamela Reid is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and VP of the ASPCA’s Behavioral Sciences Team. With a robust background in behavioral sciences, Dr. Reid and her team promote evidence-based approaches for helping shelter animals with treatable behavior problems. Dr. Reid frequently lectures on animal behavior and training worldwide.