In these difficult times when increasing numbers of us are having to self-isolate, one positive thing we can take away from it all is that we get to spend more time with our dog -and that’s guaranteed to make our days feel better instantly 🙂 . At the same time, your dog may get out for walks less – if at all. As well as having cuddles and playtime with your dog, here are some ideas to help you enjoy your long days together.
Make mealtime more exciting – ditch the food bowl!
Making a dog work for their food is naturally enjoyable for your pet. It releases calming, feel-good chemicals into their brain and it often encourages fussy eaters to become more enthusiastic about their meals. Dogs love it! If you feel they need a little help to get started you could initially tempt them with some chicken, sausage or their favourite treats rather than their standard food. The games below provide mental stimulation for your dog, they will keep them occupied and help tire them out.
Scatter feeding: Instead of placing dry food in your dog’s feeding bowl, scatter it or hide it around the house, garden or patio and get them to search it out. This fun exercise provides mental stimulation for your dog, it keeps them occupied for a while and helps tire them out.
Cardboard boxes: Another particularly popular game that costs nothing – hide your dog’s food in toilet roll innards, boxes even milk cartons and let them rip up the cardboard to find it. Stuff toilet roll innards either end with magazine paper to keep the food in. Start with easier challenges first.
Food toys: There are lots out there, Google a few? Try snuffle mats and treat ball dispensers for dry food, Licki-mats and Licki-bowls for wet food and Kong Trixie snakes for a mixture of the two.
Please also read our post on DIY Dog Toys and watch out for our ebook
Teach them new tricks
Treat yourself to a simple book of training ideas, e.g. Brain Games For Dogs by Claire Arrowsmith or find an online video. Short, fun training sessions also provide mental stimulation and enhance the bond between you and your dog. Ensure the book or video uses positive, reward-based methods.
Establish a routine
Dogs like routine, especially dogs who are prone to being a little anxious. Exact times are not essential but keep an established daily order for rest, play, training and exercising.
Can I still walk my dog?
Presuming your isolation measures don’t insist on strict quarantine conditions and/or you aren’t exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, you are allowed to take your dog out for toilet breaks, however, you should still take a few precautions. Avoid crowded areas and go out when there are fewer people about. Stay more than 2 metres from others, and keep the walks short. When you come back, make sure you follow the proper hygiene procedures (wash your hands, disinfect surfaces, etc.) If you are considering hiring someone else to walk your dog ensure they have the knowledge and experience to handle your particular dog. Establish the maximum number of dogs they walk at once and be certain your dog will be carefully introduced to the other dogs if relevant. Ideally only employ someone who has been recommended by a reliable source or who you know personally.
Article by Derek Chambers including input from behaviourist Jackie McGillicuddy IMDTB
Disclaimer: This information was valid at the time this article was published. As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, your local authorities may implement new self-isolation measures, so make sure you follow the World Health Organization and NHS to stay informed.