Studies show that dogs can keep you happier and healthier during challenging times. They can lower blood pressure, reduce the stress-related hormone cortisol, and steady your heart. So how do you pay them back for all that when things get rough?
By now, most people know that self-isolation can be difficult. You don’t get as much mental and physical activity as you’re used to and the disruption to your routine can really get you down.
But we’re not the only ones who are feeling this way. Our dogs are no doubt struggling with the shift during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether they’re picking up on your stress or just missing out on romping with their friends at the dog park, life has changed for our pets.
How do you keep them cheerful and in tip-top shape in all aspects during a quarantine? Read on for tips that will change your indoor-life with your dog.
Keep them active
It might be a struggle to continue your own fitness routine during a Coronavirus quarantine, so it’s no surprise that many dogs aren’t getting the mental and physical exercise they’re used to.
In some cities, parks are closed - and that includes dog parks or trails. Suddenly, your pooch can’t see their pals or go on a hike with you anymore. Some cities have limitations about going outside so apartment dwellers are facing a huge problem in getting their pets some exercise and out for toileting.
While we know it’s a challenge, you need to find a way to entertain and keep your dog active during these trying times. If you can’t go on an extra-long walk every day, why not play fetch in the backyard? If an outdoor area is not an option, try tossing a ball down the hallway.
Play games with your dog
You can also play games like hide and seek! It will not only keep dogs on their feet, but it gives them some mental stimulation, too. You can hide treats and make them find them, or you can hide and encourage your dog to discover your hiding spot.
You can even train your dog to jog on a treadmill if you have one available.
It’s not all about physical exercise though - you also need to encourage your dog to think. Some breeds actually require it. Things like treat puzzles, interactive feeders, and wobble balls can help entertain your dog.
Try creating your own puzzle at home by using an empty cupcake baking tray, fill a few of the cups with a few treats, and then put tennis balls in every cup. Your dog will have to move the balls to find the treats. You can also hide his favorite snacks in empty delivery boxes and encourage him to find them.
For canines that react to the television, turn on a dog-oriented YouTube video or queue up DogTV.
Since you’re home 24/7, take this opportunity to train your dog. It doesn’t have to be a chore. Make training fun by teaching your dog to do silly tricks like playing dead, dancing for a treat, or balancing a bone on their nose.
Give them a place to escape
You might assume that having you home all the time is the most exciting thing that has ever happened in your dog’s life, but that might not be the case. With more people home - including the kids - during quarantine, some pets may need a little time to get away from it all.
Having people home day in and day out can be stressful if your dog is used to having some time alone to snooze in a sun patch. On top of that, you may be doing TOO good of a job keeping your fido stimulated, and they may need a minute or two to recharge.
If your dog seems like he needs a little me-time, make sure that he gets it. Whether that means giving them a special spot like a crate or a comfy chair that is designated just for him, or you can simply leave him be when he curls up in a corner. Be mindful of your dog's needs, which can include boundaries.
Stock-up on essentials
You made sure that there’s toilet paper, food, and other necessities for you and your family. Now, don’t forget about your pooch. Of course, you’ll want to have plenty of food and treats on hand in case there aren’t any shops open or they regularly run out of stock.
But don’t forget to have any medication or supplies like ear cleaner, flea treatment and toothpaste that your dog needs. If possible, try to keep a month’s worth of supplies on hand.
This is also the time to get your hands on the things you might need while you can’t get your dog to the groomer. If you normally take your dog to have their nails trimmed and their hair cut, consider buying some clippers, scissors, and a set of nail trimmers.
Prepare for if you get sick
Hopefully, you won’t get sick or disabled during quarantine, but just in case you do, be prepared. Talk to friends or family members who might be able to take your dog or stop by to let him out and feed him.
If you can’t find someone to help, consider setting up a potty area indoors with artificial turf inside a plastic tray and teach your dog to use it. They don’t need to go there all the time as long as you can still go outside, but it’s an excellent doggy tool to have in case of an emergency.
Buy an auto-feeder and an auto-waterer to keep on hand if you start feeling under the weather. You can also contact some companies that will deliver dog food.
Monitor their mood
Just as humans can suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, and frustration after being isolated, so can dogs. Keep an eye on your pooch, learn how to read your dog's body language and be ready to intervene if you notice them acting differently than usual.
Treats that take a while to chew like bully sticks and tendons can be a good way for your pet to work out his anxiety or frustration. If your dog gets bored quickly, consider a BarkBox or other subscription to keep them entertained.
You can also massage your dog to help them calm down if they’re anxious or nervous. If they seem to react to music, you can play relaxing tunes to chill your pooch out. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good snuggle.
Sometimes, all your pup needs is a moment to hang out and connect to feel better. That said, if your dog is acting particularly sluggish, you might want to have them checked by your veterinarian. It isn’t just depression that can make any pet act down - health issues can, too.
Don’t forget to clean up!
Another problem with being home all the time is that the house seems to get dirty much quicker. That can spell disaster for your dog if they get into something they shouldn’t.
Be sure to pick up empty snack or cookie bags, which can be a suffocation hazard. If you’re doing crafts with the kids, make sure to clean up your supplies. If your dog takes a bite of super glue by accident, it would be harmful and necessitate a tip to the veterinary clinic.
Also, monitor the human treats in addition to the doggy snacks. If the kids drop their candy bar, you want to be able to snatch it up before Rover does. Don't let the kids overcompensate by giving the family dog lots of extra treats.
It may not feel like it, but there will come a day when this Coronavirus quarantine ends and you’ll need to get back to your normal routine. This may come as a shock to your dog because of yet another change in routine.
As our routines have become disrupted and we’ve spent more time at home during lockdown, our dogs have got used to us being around so much more than normal. For months, you’ve been at home all the time, and they’ve never had to be alone. Suddenly, you’re gone for nine hours a day.
How do we prepare our dogs to exit lockdown?
To avoid giving your dog separation anxiety when you can leave the house again, practice letting your dog be on their own. Put them in a separate room for short periods or leave the house if you can. Start introducing features of your regular routine like giving them a treat before you go and calmly returning so they don’t think that leaving is a big deal.
Take care of your canine buddy
It’s never easy when you have to spend time in isolation, but thank goodness you have a loyal friend to keep you company. Take good care of them by following these tips. Not only will your dog feel better, but having the job of caring for another living creature can help you feel better, too.
What’s yours and your dog’s quarantine story? Do you have any other tips for fellow dog owners?