Quarantines and lockdowns are being implemented all over the world as we desperately try to get ahead of the rapidly-spreading coronavirus. While it may seem like a dream come true for pets everywhere, the truth is even the smallest of changes in a pets routine can have a very stressful impact on our furry pals. Dogs especially thrive on a schedule they can count on, and even something as joyful as having you home every day can be an adjustment. Just think, your everyday is entirely different than it was a month ago; something that for many of us has been stressful. Their everyday has also changed and they don’t understand why.
The only good thing about Covid-19 is that the CDC, the World Health Organization and other experts are in agreement that there is no meaningful evidence that our pets can get this virus and spread it. That said, although our pets aren’t getting sick, Covid-19 has already changed the lives of pets across the country - especially for dogs and in particular, those living in apartments or small homes without yards.
The risk of Covid-19 is heightening, for sure. And as the risk continues to increase from day to day, health experts are urging us to stop “social distancing.” We’ve moved beyond that. We should now be practicing physical distancing; making sure we do not leave our homes unless it is absolutely necessary - medical reasons, supply runs, etc. Since this virus is spread mainly through respiratory droplets, especially when people cough or sneeze the truly important aspect of physical distancing is maintaining a safe distance from others when we have to be out in public to help decrease transmission.
If your pets are used to regular trips to the dog park, long walks around the neighborhood, or even visits to doggie daycare… chances are they’re beginning to feel antsy which could develop pent up energy and even destructive behavior. So first things first. Is it safe to continue to walk your dogs outdoors? Health experts claim that a quick outdoor stroll through your neighborhood is still relatively safe to do. Taking a walk will help ward off those feelings of isolation and boredom, while keeping you and your pet physically active. Just be sure and use common sense. Avoid crowded parks and keep a safe distance from neighbors at all times - 6 to 10 feet away.
If you’ve walked around the neighborhood a million times but Fido still seems restless, you may want to try giving him a mental workout. Mental stimulation is equally as important as physical stimulation under regular, everyday circumstances but especially during life in quarantine. Try working on basic command training like “sit,” “stay,” and “down” in order to burn through your pet’s mental energy. When a dog has to hold down the command for 15 minutes through, it is actually very tiring for them mentally.
If you have an extra energetic pup, try nosework exercises. Hide a handful of high-value treats like single-ingredient beef-liver treats, or banana crisps throughout your home and work with him or her until they’ve found each one. There are many benefits to nosework training but simply put, this kind of exercise helps your dog relax and it is exhausting. Blood flow to certain areas of the brain increases when a dog is sniffing really hard, and this can help calm your pup!
You can also try a KONG toy to wear your pup out mentally while stuck indoors. These rubber toys come in a variety of sizes, including options for puppies and strong chewers and they feature a hollow interior where you can stuff treats and other food. Fill the KONG with peanut butter or yogurt (whichever your pup prefers), then freeze the entire toy for a few hours. Your dog will spend hours trying to get every last bit of frozen food. By the end of it, they’ll be mentally exhausted and ready for snuggles and a long nap!
If your dog already knows basic commands like sit, stay, come, and lay down there are plenty of other tricks you can teach them while stuck in quarantine. This popular training guide, 101 Dog Tricks, contains step-by-step instructions for teaching your dog a wide range of tasks, from simple shaking hands to more complex actions like getting a bottle from the fridge. Teaching your pup new tricks not only means you’ll wear them out mentally, you’ll also improve your bond and communication too!
And of course there are interactive puzzles you can buy on Amazon too. In the same way jigsaw puzzles exercise your brain, products like the Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Dog Brick Puzzle provides a mental challenge for your pet. There are three different features within this puzzle - removable white bones, sliding compartments and flip-top pieces. You can hide treats in the various compartments and your dog will have to figure out to access the different areas of the toy.
There are many different ways to help keep your animals safe, healthy and stimulated as we all navigate these challenging times. These are just a small handful of recommendations. Whatever option(s) you choose, be sure to also shower your canine besties with extra love, belly rubs and healthy treats. Because they can’t understand what is happening in the world at this time, it is our duty to provide them with a comforting, safe and loving environment. We must all remember to be mindful of ourselves, our pets and everyone around us. This is how we’ll all get through this trying time. Stay safe and healthy, Furr-iends!