Keeping you and your dog happy and healthy during quarantine
Maintaining a sense of normalcy while isolating can get tricky for all family members, including four-legged ones. Here are 10 ideas for how to get through this extremely weird time.
It’s a well-documented fact that dogs are good for our health and happiness. They help us lead healthier lives, boost our mood and are our constant trusted companions. If there’s been one consistent thread of levity during the COVID-19 outbreak, it would be dogs. If you’re noticing more dog-related content than ever in your social feeds, it’s not a coincidence!
However, living through this pandemic comes with unique challenges for dog parents. From your fur kid making an unexpected appearance on a work Zoom, to figuring out how to get your dog the proper amount of exercise, we wanted to share a few tips and considerations for how dog parents and caregivers can get through this extremely weird time period.
- Refresh your dog’s manners: Being at home with your dog is a great opportunity to brush up on his training or teach him some new tricks! Many dog trainers who can’t interact with their clients in person are offering remote training sessions, or even Facebook groups such as Quar-n-train Club with free training tutorials. We’ll certainly be seeing many more of these in the coming weeks.
- Get outside and exercise safely with your dogs: Now is a great time to load up your dog and explore a new trail or area around where you live. Make sure to avoid narrower trails that put you within six feet of other people. Of course, regular safety rules apply to exploring new locations e.g. make sure your phone is fully charged, make sure a family member or friend knows where you and your dog are going, etc. Also, bring extra water for you and your dog to avoid using water fountains.
- Work from home effectively with your dog: Take it from longtime remote workers with fur kids: they are truly great office buddies. They don’t demand as much attention as a human kid, and their potty breaks give you good reason to get up, stretch and break up the workday. However, there's some adjustment needed for those transitioning into working from home – barking is generally not an appreciated background noise for conference calls. Make sure your pup has something to do while you’re on an important call (a frozen food stuffed toy works wonders), and best to keep him away from windows or pull down the shades if you're on the ground floor.
- Don’t overdo the treats: It’s so tempting to give out lots of treats while you’re spending so much time together, but an excess of food is not good for our dogs. Whether the extra food is given during training sessions or just because, be mindful of keeping your dog’s food intake in balance with his or her activity. (Bonus: check out Sundays on Instagram for some fun mind games and exercises you can do with your dog using treats.)
- Socializing a puppy while social distancing: if you’ve recently added a new puppy to the family, it’s extremely important to be mindful of proper socialization. Between three to sixteen weeks of age is a critical window of socialization, where puppies soak up information about the world and begin to shape their personalities. If you have another close family member or neighbor with a friendly dog, you can bring your puppy over and have him play with a dog pal in their yard (while making sure to keep your six feet of distance).
- But it’s not just about socializing your dog with people and other dogs: according to Sarah Dixon, certified dog behavior consultant and owner of Odyssey Animal Behavior, the most important part of puppy socialization is the exposure of novelty. It’s all about mental enrichment and helping your puppy’s brain develop in a way where he can deal with different experiences as he ages. “Make sure to continue exposing them to different environments, sights and smells,” says Sarah. “Seeing different-looking people, even from a distance, is great. Let him feel different surfaces under his feet. Inside, put on big hats and weird sunglasses, put an umbrella down on the floor for him to sniff or a jar of rocks that makes noise. While you have to maintain distance from others when outside, give your puppy a treat when you walk past another dog or person on the street to create a positive association and help minimize leash aggression or other unwanted behaviors as your dog ages.”
- Give your dog some alone time: Whether or not your dog has displayed signs of separation anxiety in the past, it’s a good idea to give them an hour or so where you’re not at home so they don’t become accustomed to having you around 24/7. Take a walk or run, run to the grocery store or another errand and keep some sort of routine in place. Especially for dogs who have struggled with separation anxiety in the past, it’s important to take this step so they don’t regress into previous problematic behaviors.
- Living in a big city with your dog? This one is challenging and extra precautions must be taken to keep you and your dog safe. First - bring a wipe and/or wear gloves to handle shared surfaces like doors or elevator buttons. When outside on crowded city streets, be extra vocal and don’t be afraid to ask people to keep their distance. Going for walks during non-peak hours can be a big help. It’s also a great idea to buy an extra harness and leash so you can switch equipment and wash or sanitize the other set.
- Calling all potential fosters or adopters! While most of the coronavirus-related news is nothing short of awful, we are loving the story that’s going around about many shelters across the country seeing many volunteers, foster parents and adopters stepping up. Antoinette, @hayhayitsaj's mom reports that there is an overwhelming number of apps for fosters and volunteers for True North Rescue Mission, a New York-based rescue organization she volunteers with. When opening up your home to a dog in need, it’s important to consider your lifestyle pre- and post-COVID and have an open conversation with a shelter or rescue group. If you regularly work long hours at an office and aren't home much, consider fostering or adopting a dog that is independent and doesn't need much exercise. An older dog could be great in this scenario as many are very relaxed and are happy to spend most of the day snoozing on your couch.
- Support your dog’s caregivers (walkers, daycares, veterinarians): This is an extremely stressful and challenging time for dog care professionals who work to keep your dog happy and healthy. For vet offices and daycares that are open, it is much appreciated for you to call and check in and see how you can help - sending a pizza for lunch or a small gratuity could go a long way in lifting morale. And of course, if you’re still getting paid and are able to, consider still paying for your walker or daycare whether or not you’re utilizing their services, because this industry has been hit extremely hard and many employees are suddenly out of a job.
- Determine a backup plan for if you get sick and need someone to take care of your dog: This is an unfortunate reality of the COVID-19 outbreak but a general preparedness plan is always a good idea for your fur kid. In the event you or your family members become sick or hospitalized, it’s a great idea to have a point person who is familiar with your dog who can help out if needed. Make an emergency kit for your dog and keep it in an accessible place, including feeding/medication instructions, some food and drinking bowls, a copy of your dog’s medical/vaccine records and his veterinary info.
From our fam to yours, stay safe, stay healthy and let us know if you have any other ideas to help out. We're in this together!