Whether working remotely or adhering to the government’s recommendations for social distancing, many of us are spending a lot more time at home these days. As we hunker down and intentionally isolate ourselves in response to the coronavirus pandemic, many of us may be feeling a mixture of fear, anxiety, stress — even boredom — for ourselves and our pets.
But there’s good news for dog owners:
1, According to the CDC, there is no evidence to suggest that pets are a source of COVID-19 infectionat this time, nor are there any report of animals becoming sickened by the virus. (Still, it’s always prudent to practice healthy hygiene after handling your dog, their food, waste or supplies).
2, Your dog actually makes you healthier! That’s right, study after study confirms the health benefits of human-animal interactions. They not only keep us company — which is even more important now when we may be feeling isolated from our friends and community — but their companionship helps to lower stress and improve heart health.
3, Dog walking can be ideal social distancing, and has numerous physical and mental health benefits. Take care to avoid crowded spaces and don’t gather with your friends at the park. To do this, try an early morning walk. With fewer people out, it’ll be easier to follow social distancing guidelines.
But what about the other 14 hours a day when I’m hunkered down at home?
Over the coming weeks, Americans will spend more time at home, which means our pets will, too. Indeed, trips to the dog park, playdates, and the groomer may be on hold for the foreseeable future.
So what can you do to keep you (and your dog) from going stir crazy at home? Here’s our list of fun, mentally-stimulating ideas to help keep your pooch happy, healthy and safe while you lay low.
Mix Up Your Feeding + Treat Routine
Transform dinner time into a stimulating game. Using feeding toys and dispensers is a great way to not only make meal time last longer, but it’s also a great way to give your dog some guaranteed mental stimulation. Don’t have a dispenser? Take your dog’s meal outside and ask them to forage instead. Toss their food in the grass in various places and let them use their olfactory system to find their meal (Note: This exercise may not be suitable for pups unmotivated by food). For a snack, give your dog long-lasting chews like bully sticks, which will occupy them longer than other treats.
Take Time to Train
Remember your puppy training class? If you’ve let some things slide, now’s the time to reinforce the basics, like sit, stay, or down. Once your dog has those mastered, try roll over, play dead, or stand on hind legs. Use a training aid, such as a clicker or high-quality treats, like our all-natural Crunch Puffs, for a healthy reward. Practicing these tricks at home together is a bonding experience, and you’ll have a fun party trick to impress your friends and family when next you gather.
Have a new bike that your dog is unsure of? Does your dog hate skateboards? Use your downtime at home to introduce your human toys to your dog in their safe place. Let them sniff, play, sit on and get used to things that might scare them outside. To make the introduction easier, place treats on the scary item so your dog associates a positive reward with the thing that makes them nervous. Once your dog has nailed the stationary introduction, you can begin practicing movement.
Play Hide & Seek
It’s fun for our pups to use their other senses to find us. This may be easier if you live with someone—so get them involved too. To play, have one person stay with your pup while you go hide and then ask the dog to find you (dogs know us humans by the names we call each other most frequently in their presence—so use that name rather than a formal one). Have fun!
Try Scent Work
In this blog series, we explore the benefits of scent work -- including mental stimulation, bonding, and confidence building -- and offer guidance on simple training exercises that you can do with your dog at home. It’s a great activity to exercise their nose and their brain!
To be sure, the coronavirus pandemic is causing a lot of uncertainty and stress. The silver lining for dog owners is that more time at home means more cuddle sessions, more play time, and more companionship from our furry buddies. Now that’s something to celebrate.
Have a fun trick or stimulating game that you play with your dog at home? Capture it on video and share it with our community of dog lovers on Instagram #bowwowlabs.