We’ve all heard it: cases of COVID-19 are popping up all over the world, and have been for the last couple of months. This virus has evolved into a serious public health issue, and many changes are occurring to our way of life as a result of the threat that it poses. Children and college students are at home in the middle of March as a result of national mass school closings, and may be for the remainder of the school year. Many companies are instructing their employees to work from home to prevent spreading the virus within the workplace. Restaurants, theaters, cinemas, bars and stores have closed their seating areas indefinitely, while many of the world’s most popular sporting events have been postponed or cancelled altogether.
The term “social distancing” refers to the enormous push to encourage Americans and citizens of other nations to stay home as much as possible, avoiding groups or gatherings, while maintaining a distance of six feet or more when out in public. As many of us are now spending a great deal of time at home, we may wonder, “What should I do now?” As fantastic as binge watching a great TV show or getting lost in a book can be, it may be difficult to partake in these activities for long before your dog reminds you that they are there too – and they are very excited that you are home with them.
If there has ever been one nearly perfect time to work with your dog, now is that time! Since not enough information is known regarding how COVID-19 impacts canine health, the safest thing to do is both spend as much time in the house together as possible until guidance is received stating otherwise.
For those of you who are practicing social distancing with your pup, we have accumulated a fun list of activities that you can do together until it is safe to resume activities as normal.
1. Go for a nature walk.
Although it is recommended that individuals avoid public places as much as possible right now, a walk taken in a remote, outdoor environment can help you and your pup feel refreshed. It will also provide your dog with mental stimulation, while giving you the opportunity to get out of the house. The key is to avoid any places experiencing a regular flow of human traffic!
2. Watch a movie together.
A Dog’s Life, Homeward Bound, Lassie, Old Yeller, 101 Dalmatians, Beethoven, A Dog’s Way Home… the list of timeless, heartwarming dog-related movies is endless. Watching an inspirational movie about dogs will give your pup something to interact with and will give you a break from bad news.
3. Make a meal that you both can eat.
We don’t necessarily recommend sharing your food all the time; however, if it’s just you and your dog at home, you might both enjoy a creative mutual culinary experience. Feel free to be creative with your food – just make sure that you don’t unintentionally use any foods that could be toxic to your dog.
4. Teach your dog new tricks.
The internet (think, YouTube) is an excellent resource for finding new and creative dog trick ideas. Another great alternative is “101 Dog Tricks” by Kyra Sundance. This book offers 101 impressive and creative dog tricks ranging from very simple to difficult, and provides step-by-step instructions on how to teach them all.
5. Have a grooming session.
Take some time to enjoy a self-care regimen. As many of us have more time on our hands than usual, now is a great time to dye your hair a color you have been dying to try, order a pedicure kit, new lotion or hot oil set, take a bubble bath, exfoliate, start a yoga regimen… Anything that makes you feel good and refreshed. Now is also a great time to brush your dog’s teeth, trim their nails, give them a bath or brush them. You both will enjoy the pampering!
6. Do your work (or homework) while your pup works on puzzle games
There are so many dog puzzles available on the market today. Puzzles, snuffle mats, games, etc. are all a great way to keep your dog occupied and provide mental stimulation when you need to accomplish something. These games can be ordered through the internet on popular sites such as Chewy and Amazon. Many smaller puzzles (such as boards or balls) can easily be placed in their crate with them, or out on any surface. Games and puzzles will provide you temporary peace when you don’t have the time to exercise your energetic dog.
If you don’t want to purchase a puzzle game, another great option for keeping your dog busy is to fill a bone or kong with something they love to eat and freeze it. An easy filling recipe is plain Greek yogurt (no flavors or sweetener), plain canned pumpkin puree and a small bit of 100% peanut butter (NO xylitol – it is poisonous to dogs). Mix all ingredients, stuff and freeze!
7. Purchase or create agility equipment and practice in the backyard.
Yes, it is possible to create your own agility equipment. This can be accomplished by purchasing building equipment such as PVC piping at Lowes or Home Depot (or perhaps even using stuff you already have around the house if you’re hardcore social distancing) and building it it yourself. Agility equipment can also be ordered online. Agility is a great bonding activity for you and your pup and improve their confidence quickly while also providing mental and physical stimulation.
8. Have a “selfie” photography session together
Nothing is cuter than a cute dog photo! Not to mention, wouldn’t you just love to capture some memorable moments that you can look back upon with adoration during this… interesting time? Not to mention, think of the social media potential!
9. Start an Instagram page for your dog
While you’re spending some time having a photography session with your dog anyways, why not create an Instagram account for your dog? People love them and some of the more popular profiles have upward of 1 million + followers!
10. Play the “treat hiding” game.
Another great option when you want to keep your dog busy is the “treat hiding game.” In order to play this game, you will hide treats around your house and let your dog find them. You will want to start by putting your dog in a room or in their crate, and then leaving a treat out in the open. When you are ready, release them and give them a verbal cue (e.g. “Search!” Or “Find the cookie!”). After they find the treat, praise them and do the same thing, but with the treat in a different place.
After your dog is sniffing around and understands that there are treats around, begin hiding them behind things (in a location that is easy for them to get to) at floor or nose level. As your dog gets better at finding them, add more treats and increase the difficulty. Just make sure that your dog can always safely reach them!
11. Teach your dog the house manners you have wanted to, but haven’t had time for until now
You have extra time now – why not work with your pup? Does your dog bolt out doors, jump on people, bark at every passing car, eat the couch or have potty training issues? Now is the time to start resolving these issues! You will be happy that you did so in the long run, and you might find that it helps strengthen the relationship that you have with your dog.
12. Listen to 'A Life of Dogs'
Are you looking for a really cool, immersive activity that you can listen to while you’re working from your home office, making dinner, taking a trip to the grocery store, painting, fixing your yard, making home improvements or chilling on your couch?
The podcast, A Life of Dogs, is a selection of very inspirational, informative dog related stories that covers a wide scope of topics. From working dogs to pet dogs, to dogs that are trained to do the incredible, A Life of Dogs provides an inside look at some of the most interesting dog related content out there. The combination of fascinating interviews, top notch audio and emotionally stirring narratives makes this podcast a binge worthy addition to any dog lover’s audio library.
Just because you’re stuck in the house doesn’t mean that life has to be boring. Use this time to build a stronger relationship with one of the creatures who loves you the most: your dog! They will adore the extra time that you are spending together, and you will get the opportunity to do do some creative activities that you wouldn’t normally have the time to do.