Being in the thick of the current health crisis of 2020, we have all made drastic changes to the way we are currently spending our days. From social distancing to complete lock-down (except for essential outings), these are very strange times indeed. With limited exposure and opportunities to venture outside, it can be difficult to know what to do with your dog to enrich their lives whilst we isolate during this pandemic.
It may feel like all activity needs to be put on hold but, there are plenty of ways to both mentally and physically stimulate your dog.
We share our top tips to keeping your pooch happy and healthy.
1. Maintain Physical Exercise
With people now avoiding areas of higher human traffic, your local park where you would typically allow your dog to run, is now a “no-go-zone” but this should not mean that physical exercise has to fall by the wayside.
A brisk walk, whilst still adhering to the social distancing regulations should be part of your daily or weekly routine.
Dogs typically have more energy either early in the morning or late in the afternoon into early evening. These are great times to give your dog exercise. Early morning and evening exercise is also safer for your pet as it avoids the heat of the day. Walking in the middle of the day can cause dogs to overheat.
In addition to regular walks, engaging in games of play can also exert physical energy. Retrieving games such as “fetch” is not only great exercise for your dog but can strengthen the bond between owner and pooch. You can also do this from the safety of your own backyard without needing to leave your property.
2. Change Up Play Time
If a simple game of fetch is no longer cutting the mustard for your play time rituals, consider a new game to play with your dog. We suggest a friendly game of Hide and Seek! Hide and Seek will certainly shake things up and allow your dog to utilise other senses, including his sense of smell, making for the perfect nose work game.
Anything is possible with a game of Hide and Seek. You can use a treat, toy or even a person allowing family members and children to participate in the fun. With your dog patiently waiting, instruct your dog to “SEEK” and praise your dog after he has found the object/person!
An easy way to begin is to;
- Show your dog the object of his desire (i.e. a tennis ball)
- Have an assistant create a small trail around the yard and place the object
- Release the dog with a command (i.e. “SEEK” or “FIND”)
- Ensure you praise the dog once he has discovered the hiding spot
- Increase the level of difficulty as your dog’s understanding develops
3. Train Your Dog
Training is the perfect way to exercise your dog’s mind and strengthen the bond between the two of you. Whilst in isolation, you may be looking for a way to keep yourself (and your dog) entertained. Training can offer both parties an outlet from boredom.
Whether you want to sharpen your dog’s obedience or practice a new trick, spend time each day with your dog working on something together. This gives a dog a job, a purpose and an opportunity to relinquish pent up energy as training can be tiresome work.
If you feel that your dog is already obedient in all typical commands, try something outside the box. Set yourself a weekly goal or challenge and teach your dog a fun trick (i.e. beg, roll over, “bring me the quarantine snacks”).
If you are unsure of what you can do with your dog or how to approach teaching certain tricks, your friendly Trainers at Found by the Hound are still conducting Private Lessons for individuals. Additional measures have been implemented to ensure your safety and alleviate any risk pertaining to Covid-19.
4. Begin Nose Work Games
Nose work and scent games offer your dog a rewarding and fun way to use their natural abilities. Even though a dog’s sense of smell is more than 10,000 times more powerful than our own they still rely on visuals, especially in familiar environments such as your home. Nose work games can help your dog hone in on their natural talents, and in turn stimulate their mind.
A beginners guide to a simple Nose Work game can be “Which Cup Has The Treat”;
- Choose an area with minimum distraction
- Have you dog in a “Sit” position
- Place a treat under one of two objects
- Show the dog
- Give your dog a command (i.e. FIND IT)
- Once your dog gestures towards the correct object, reward. Start to increase the number of objects that are placed down that the dog will need to search. Utilising “clicker training” in this game will assist with the dogs training
Once your dog masters this game, you can introduce new Nose Work games and increase the level of difficulty.
Our Found by the Hound Trainers compete in Nose Work Competitions and offer Training in this area for those who are interested in implementing this into their own training efforts.
5. Separation Time
It is very clear we will be spending more time with our pets at home. Whilst this is a very exciting prospect for both owners and dogs we must keep in mind that eventually life will begin to return to normal and our dogs may struggle to adjust to returning to previous routines.
We recommend that during the day you still separate away from your dog at times. It is ideal that your separation time is randomly done each day. Avoid doing it at the same time each day when possible. Most importantly you must ensure that when you separate your dog away from you that your dog can not see you and can not physically get to you. We also recommend make the time of separation random too. One day they are away for 2 minutes another it could be 2 hours.
When you are doing any separation time with your dog you must always remember to only return to a calm dog. If your dog is stressed or fretting when you are not around this could be early symptoms of dependency issues which if left untreated can develop into serious separation anxiety.
6. Relaxing Time
Don’t feel that you need to fill your dog’s entire day up. This could set a very dangerous standard for your dog. One it is not mentally healthy to be constantly in action and two when you are not around that expectation will still remain and your home may bear the brunt of your dog’s frustration. Let your dog relax at times and have no expectation to do anything.
Like all things in life balance is important. Finding a balance is not only vital for yourself but also for your canine companion. That does not mean you need to create a specific timetable to balance everything. Just be mindful that you should maintain healthy levels of interaction, separation and rest time.