For a lot of us it will be coming on to 8 weeks that we have been in lockdown and I know that one of the suggestions I have found helpful as a coping mechanism is to adopt a new routine and stick to it. But what about our dogs, how are they coping? Here are some key things to remember to help our furry members of the family get through this difficult and different period that we are experiencing.
Walking & Exercise
Although many of us are restricted by the number of times we can go out at the moment try as far as possible to ensure that your dog has at least one walk a day. Walking your dog is not only good physical activity but it is also good mental enrichment especially when you allow your dog to smell and sniff trees, flowers, grass etc as that is how they get their information about the environment and what is going on. When your dog has had physical activity plus mental stimulation that wears them out and helps to promote a calm dog. If it is difficult for you to get out with your dog remember that a game of “Tug” or “Fetch” in the garden is good for getting some energy out of them plus you are giving them one on one time too!
Our dogs are very intelligent animals therefore to get the balance of their needs physical exercise is part of the equation the other being mental stimulation! There are plenty of ways that you can do this with your dog. Practice those training cues with them, teach them some Tricks! There are some great puzzle toys on the market. Nina Ottosson puzzles such as Doggie Tornado, Dog Brick, Hide and Slide are great fun for them. I use these with my dogs a few times a week. If you purchase a couple and rotate them around for about 30 mins that is great exercise for your dog’s brain.
Other enrichment toys include Kongs, Treat Balls, Snuffle Mats or a great “DIY” Muffin Tin Game! All you need is a muffin tin, 12 tennis balls (or as many sections the tin has) and dog treats! Place treats at the bottom of each segment where you would normally put the muffin casing and then put a tennis ball on top. Ask your dog for a “Sit” and a “Wait” before you place the tray down and then let them search for those treats! These are just a few that I use with my own dogs and they keep them entertained for quite some time!
Safe Place - What is this and why do they need it?
What we as dog owners need to remember is that this moment in time that we are all experiencing is tough and it is stressful for us humans, but it can also be a tough time for our dogs too. Dogs feed off our emotions and if we feel low, which is not without reason at this time, our dogs’ sense that emotion from us which in turn can make them feel tense and anxious. So watch out for that.
Also, in our “usual world” there are many dogs that are used to us being away from the home for a period of time during the day. During this time, they get used to space and having down time until we return home. But at the moment with the whole family at home and the house being much busier than it normally would be our dogs may not be getting the same amount of down time they are accustomed to and need. This can lead to them feeling anxious and stressed or over stimulated. Therefore, to avoid any unnecessary tensions or conflict create a “safe place” for your dog to go to during the course of the day where they can have time on their own.
This can be done by putting their crate or dog bed in a quiet area or room in the house. Plus remember if the dog is sleeping and toddlers or younger children are around be sure to teach them not to disturb the dog when it is asleep as this can cause the dog to jump and possibly lash out unintentionally simply because they have been startled. Setting up an area like this can benefit your dog immensely giving them the opportunity to have the down time they need. Additionally, if you throw in some classical or reggae music on top that will create an even better, relaxing and calming environment.
Lastly, the new guidelines from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends social distancing for dogs too. So, when out on walks keep to the 6 ft guidelines for your pets as well as you and don’t let your dog interact with other dogs and avoiding dog parks at this time is advisable.
Please continue to Stay Safe, Stay Positive and Stay Healthy ….
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