COVID-19 and your pet: How to entertain your dog during self-isolation

COVID-19 and your pet: How to entertain your dog during self-isolation

People and dogs are social creatures, but the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way we are all living our lives- fur-family included. As of this morning, there are 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, Ontario. Between social distancing and self-isolation, making connections has never been more difficult and there are far fewer butts for our dogs to sniff. Our dogs are overjoyed by the fact that many of us are home more than usual, but like us, they can become restless. Less walks, less sniffing and less social interaction can lead to boredom- and this can sometimes lead to acting out and misbehaving. Before we go barking up the wrong tree, let's get our tails wagging in the right direction when it comes to self-isolation with our pet.

Can I still walk my dog during self-isolation?

Fur the most part, no. If you are confirmed positive for COVID-19 you should not be walking your dog or taking your dog outside unless absolutely necessary. This would be considered a quarantine situation, and you should be limiting contact with the outside world. Government of Canada also recommends, if you are positive for COVID-19, that you limit the amount of contact you have with your pet- especially if you live with other people. If you touch your pet, and another person touches your pet, there is a risk of exposure. Since there is still much we don't know about COVID-19 and our pets, if you are infected with COVID-19 you should reduce your contact with your pet and touch your pet with clean hands.

Some of you may be choosing to self-isolate, meaning that you are not quarantined, but you are staying at home to reduce your risk of exposure. Maybe your workplace has closed, you're caring for a family member or you're concerned with the risks of going out. You are not COVID-19 positive- just scared. In this case, as long as you abide by the social distancing recommendations, wash your hands and avoid contact with people and public surfaces, you can still walk your dog. But keep walks brief and less frequent. Wear gloves and keep your dog on a short leash. Do not let anyone else pet your dog. 

How do I keep my pet entertained during self-isolation?

Binge-watching a series on Netflix might sound like a great time to you, but your dog will get bored of that in no time. Last night my dog Hazel pulled every single toy out of her toy box and brought each one to me, one by one as if to say "will any of these options convince you to take me to the park?"

Since Hazel and I live in an apartment building in the city, I have drastically cut back the amount of time we spend outside. I work in the veterinary field, and I consider this to be an essential service, so I haven't missed any work. To help keep Hazel occupied, I'm going to have to start getting creative.

Teach your dog to clean up her toys

This is what Hazel and I will be working on this weekend. Since Hazel loves taking her toys out of her toybox, I'm working on teaching her to put them back in. She's a big girl now!

Puzzle games for dogs

If you can't exercise your dog's body, then exercise her mind instead. Puzzle toys and treat balls are a great way to stimulate your dog's mind. There is a wide range of treat-dispensing toys at PetValu, but you can easily make your own at home. Get a muffin tray, 12 tennis balls, and some treats. Put a tennis ball in each hole, but hide treats under a few of them. Then put it on the floor and let your dog try to find the treats!

I'm a big fan of the Kong line of toys. Hazel loves the Kong Wobbler. It's a treat-dispensing toy that is weighted in the bottom. You twist off the bottom half and put treats in, and your dog moves it around, making it wobble back and forth, to get the treats to come out of the small hole. 

 Dental Chews

Chewing can help a pet burn off energy. If you're going to give your pet a chew, I recommend a good dental chew to help keep the teeth clean while they're busy chomping away.

Teach your dog new tricks

Since you and your dog have all of this one-on-one time, take the opportunity to work on some new skills. Can your dog play dead? Rollover? Catch treats in the air? Research the best techniques and see what your dog can learn!

Play tug

Hazel loves her tug toy. It's made by Kong, so it's durable. If you have space, playing tug-of-war can be a real energy burner for your dog. 

Play an inside game of fetch

You don't even need to throw the ball. You can roll the ball around and let your dog chase it. Or bounce it. Just enough to get your dog interested in something different and to play into your dog's natural prey drive.

Brush up on your dog's grooming

Pamper your pet with brushing, fur trimming and nail trims- although your dog may not consider a nail trim to be pampering. Many dogs really enjoy being brushed.

Go for a drive

If you're not positive for COVID-19, going for a drive won't expose you to the public. Take your dog for a drive and let them put their head out the window and enjoy some fresh air. Dogs really miss experiencing the world through smell.

Have some serious snuggle sessions

This is Hazel's favourite activity of all time. Use this time to bond and have some couch snuggles. If you're not legitimately quarantined, that is. Snuggling your dog can help reduce your stress, lower your blood pressure and make you feel less lonely. And let's face it, the social distancing and self-isolation that we are all doing while trying to flatten the COVID-19 curve is making it extremely lonely, especially for some people. We are all suffering from the same stress and the same fears, but we are in this together. Our community and our pets are all there as a support system- from a safe distance. Stay safe out there everyone!

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