We are living in very new and challenging times. The spread of the coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) has developed into a full pandemic and we are learning new phrases and finding ourselves in new situations in our efforts to help slow the spread of the virus. Social distancing and self-isolation are now commonly used in the media and in our daily lives, whereas about three or four weeks ago, you’d have been hard pushed to find anyone that really knew what they meant!
These are certainly difficult times. We all need company in our lives and the ability to get out and about. These simple pleasures are now being seriously challenged, with the vast majority of us being encouraged to stay home and avoid all unnecessary contact with others and unnecessary trips outside of the four walls and garden fence we call home.
So, what if you own a dog or two? How does the current situation affect you and your pal(s)? What can we do to make the best of the extra time we have to spend with our four-legged friends? In this post, that’s exactly what we are going to look at – tips and advice about what you can do so that you and your canine buddy get the best out of these trying times.
Dogs (and Cats) Are Not Affected by the Virus
Firstly, it’s important to be aware that you can’t catch the virus from pets and according to the WHO, there is no evidence that your pet dog or cat can pass on the new coronavirus. However, be cautious while out walking your dog as there is some indication that dogs may be able to carry it on their coat and so transfer it from one household to another, just as we can on our hands. Consequently it’s important to avoid letting them mingle with other owners and their dogs, do not allow other dogs jump up on you and remember to always use good hygiene practices around animals.
Tighten Your Bond
It’s likely that your normal day to day life is filled with going to work, doing daily chores and visiting friends and family. Even if you are the most committed pet parent, it’s likely you still only had a certain amount of time that you could spend with your furry friends. However, many of us are now in a situation where the amount of free time we have to spend with our pets has increased exponentially. And if you have to spend time away from people, we know of no way better to spend it than with our pets.
Although you will probably need to spend a large percentage of the time indoors, unless your area is under a strict lockdown situation you should be able to walk your dog, as long as you follow the guidelines about interactions with other humans. Some ideas for outdoor exercises to strengthen the bond with your dog may tempt you to try something new. Just remember to use your head and follow the rules of social distancing, as well as general common sense.
We don’t know about you, but we feel there is a certain joy to be told you don’t need to keep up the normal social niceties (and don’t be tempted to)! You don’t need to stop and chat to other dog owners. Instead you can go to the local park, or a less frequented area and focus on making the most of time spent with your waggly-tailed pal.
As dogs are pack animals who love attention from others in their pack, especially from you as their pack leader, they will appreciate the extra time you spend with them. As a result, although things will certainly be strained and difficult in many ways until the spread of Coronavirus and risk of catching it decreases, now is a great time to develop the relationship that you have with your dog.
Put Them Through Their Paces
Has there been a specific trick or part of your dog’s training that you have not had the time to focus on due to the commitments of your normal daily life? Now you can get those tutorials, those treats and toys and get to it. Check out our post on ‘National Train Your Dog Month’ which includes lots of insights into dog learning and the do’s and don’ts of training your furry friend. Our ‘Training Humans’ series is another great place to start learning more about the why’s and how’s of training your dog. YouTube is also a fantastic resource for dog training techniques, and by the end of it all your pooch could be the next Lassie!
Our Favourite Training Tasks
There are many things you could teach your dog, some essential tasks or behaviors and others just downright fun! Remember to have some handy treats to reward them for the correct behavior and to help reinforce the learning experience.
If your pup is still less than perfect when it comes to their toilet habits, now’s your chance to set up some dedicated time to nail this habit for good.
SIT! And Stay…
Teaching your dog to sit and stay is not only a neat trick, but it’s also an essential control technique that every dog should understand. It will not only save you much frustration by keeping your dog where you want them, but also could help keep them safe in potentially dangerous situations.
Fetch! And Drop…
While you may be a while off having your dog fetch the newspaper and a pair of slippers for you, teaching them to fetch and bring back is a great game and can provide you with hours of bonding entertainment, not to mention a great way to exercise your dog without you having to overload your step counter!
The “Shake Hands” trick is definitely one of the cuter tricks your pup can learn. It’s quite simple and is actually one of the easiest tricks to teach.
Teach Your Dog To Clean Up Their Toys
If your dog’s toys are kept in a container you can teach them to put their toys away, which is a really fun trick to teach them if you’re confined to the house, whilst also being a handy way to save your tidying time! Once your dog knows the “drop it” command, you can have them pick up a toy and give them the drop it command, once they’re standing over the container. Praise them like crazy, then rinse and repeat. Eventually with consistency you’ll have a dog that will be able to clean up after themself.
Tug Of War
If you’re looking for some pure entertainment for you and your pooch, a good ol’ game of tug of war is a great one that can be played both indoors and out. And contrary to what some people say playing tug will not make your dog aggressive, and letting them win will not make them dominant. Letting your dog win just makes the game more fun for your dog, and it will encourage them to play more. Dogs that play tug with their owners have been found to be more obedient and have higher confidence.
Get Creative With Their Food
It may not just be training that you have been putting off. Are you a fan of organic and homemade dog food? Now’s a great time to get creative in the kitchen, especially if you have not had the time to cook for your dog in the past. We are already hearing about people batch cooking for themselves and their family as a way of combating boredom. Why not take this a step further and start experimenting with your dog’s diet?
Even if you don’t have a specific recipe in mind, you will be able to find plenty of inspiration online. Having all that extra time means that you can trial and error different ingredients and meals on your dog. If you like spending time in the kitchen, it could be a lot of fun and if your dog has a healthy appetite, they are certainly not going to complain being tasked with trying lots of different food (even if you get it a little wrong, oops)!
Your experimentation may even lead to the discovery of a more cost-effective or healthier bit of grub for your doggy chum and help you save money and keep your pet healthier for many years to come. You might take the extra time you have to research and consider changing your dog to a raw food diet and there’s lots of evidence that feeding a raw food diet is best for your dog. But we know that raw is not for everyone. There are plenty of resources on YouTube to inspire you to get creative when cooking for your dog, but below is one of our favourites as it not only gives you some great recipes, Shelby also talks about why she got started in creating dinner for her dog from scratch, for Maddie’s health and wellbeing.
The most important thing to remember if you and your pal find yourselves alone is not to panic. You will need to adjust to it, but we are all essentially in the same boat. This is only temporary and if you still have the ability to move about, now is the time to start preparing. Hopefully, the above tips and suggestions will help you to make a truly horrendous situation into a positive experience for both you and your dog.
Stay Safe everyone.