Whilst the world is on lockdown, everyone’s routines have been changed. But how can we keep our pets happy during this unsettled time?
Get into a new routine
Animals need a routine, and this is especially true for dogs. Your old routine has been thrown out the window, but you need to come up with a new one for a sense of normality for both you and your pet. If you can keep some things the same, such as exercise time and feeding times, this will help them settle when the world goes back to normal.
Don’t spend all your time with your pets
I know it hard, our dogs are like our children and all this extra time we now have means we are spending more time with our pets. Whilst this is lovely, we have to think of the bigger picture. If your dog is used to you being around 24/7, when you do eventually go back to work, they could develop separation anxiety. This means your dog will become anxious without you and some can defecate in the house or become destructive. Whilst the majority of separation anxiety can improve with training, it’s much easier and less stressful if we can avoid this altogether.
To help your dog cope, spend some of the day in another room away from your dog, even if it means shutting them in another room. Go back to basics and treat them like a puppy again, leaving them for short periods throughout the day. If you have access to a garden, go in the garden without them so they know you being out of sight is safe and part of the routine.
Things like putting your coat and shoes on but then sitting down and reading a book will help them feel less anxious when it comes to you leaving the house eventually as it won’t be a big deal to them. Whilst we aren’t allowed to leave the house more than once a day, you are allowed to step outside from the front door and potter in the front garden (as long as you maintain social distancing from others!) Upon returning, don’t make a big fuss of your dog as this can make them anxious when you leave. Just come back indoors and carry on as normal.
Cuddles are also important though!
Exercise their minds
Whilst physical exercise will tire them out, don’t forget about mental stimulation too.
There are many puzzle toys on the market with varying abilities depending on your dog. If your dog is food orientated, you can use this to your advantage as puzzle toys are a great way to keep your dog engaged and thinking. You may need to spend the first few attempts teaching them how to use it, but it’s worth it when they get the hang of it. Eric really enjoyed this one.
Kong toys are great too as you can stuff them with food and then freeze them, meaning they last longer. If your dog can finish a Kong quickly, you could try coating the inside with honey to keep them working at it. You can also get Kong Wobblers that are weighted at the bottom and your dog has to tilt them to release food. Don’t forget to give them smaller meals as your dog will be consuming more calories!
Normal toys are good too, and encouraging them to play calmly is a good idea. Eric enjoys chewing on toys, so I got him a couple of flavoured Nylabone toys to have as well as a new teddy bear to snuggle up with. It is also an opportunity to teach your dog a new command, such as paw, give and stay, which will help to keep their brain working.
Utilise outside space
If you are lucky enough to have access to a secure garden, use it to your advantage during the quarantine. It is well known that being outdoors does wonders for our mental health and the same is true for our four-legged companions. If your dog likes water, paddling pools can provide entertainment and keep them cool.
Get your dog to use their instincts and hide food around the garden, getting them to use that highly specialised nose to hunt out treats!
Whilst we are allowed to leave the house once a day for exercise if more than one of you live at home, each member of the house can walk your dog at different times. Don’t forget, all non-essential travel has been banned, so no driving to walking areas however you can vary where you walk your dog. Pick a different direction each walk to mix things up and let your dog sniff. It can be frustrating when you want to get going and it feels like your dog is sniffing every few steps, but sniffing gives your dog information about the environment and other dogs who have been there before, so let them do it!
And the most important piece of advice is to enjoy the quality time you get to spend with them.