Lockdown affects every member of the family – including your resident hound. Here’s how to make sure they – and you – don’t go barking mad in self-isolation.
Daily routineDogs are creatures of habit. If you usually walk them first thing before work, try and stick to this so that the structure of their day isn’t interrupted. Similarly, make sure you keep their daily diet and mealtimes the same; if you are at home more don’t be tempted to give them more treats or snacks than they’re used to.
Do, however, make the most of the stress-busting power of pets and punctuate your day with 10-minute breaks with your dog; it could be grooming (see below), playing in the garden or just a sofa cuddle. Hugging a pet releases oxytocin, the same feel good hormone as when we hug a human. Perfect if you are missing that social interaction.
Dog walksGovernment guidelines state that daily dog walks are fine to continue as part of your one form of exercise a day. However, you can’t drive to your daily dog walk and must stay close to home. When out on a dog walk, take hand sanitiser with you in case you touch public bins, railings or gates. Maintain a two-metre social distance at all times and resist the urge to pet a dog that isn’t yours (difficult we know!).
If you are in self-isolation and can’t get out to walk your dog, the Blue Cross is pairing up those in isolation with local volunteers to offer walks. If someone does walk your dog for you, do maintain a two-metre distance and ask them to bring their own lead, poo bags and treats to minimise exposure. If that’s not an option, The Dog’s Trust have put together plenty of enrichment games and training exercise ideas to keep dogs occupied, exercised and engaged during lockdown here.
Peace and quietIf you’ve got children off school and you are working from home too, chances are the house is noisier and busier than usual. Implement some rules with young children around when they can and can’t play with the dog and give your pet somewhere quiet to retreat to when they need space.
TLCVets are still open and prioritising emergency cases in surgery, and some are now offering video appointments to minimise contact. If it is a routine appointment that can be postponed, then do call your vets to discuss. Urgent medication and treatments for your pet can also be prescribed through remote consultations, with your vet advising on how you can collect supplies while maintaining social distancing measures.
Pet SuppliesPet shops are still open as part of the essential services list, but do bear in mind that stockpiling and delivery interruption may mean you can’t get your dog’s usual food. Take a look online as there are many delivery companies such as Butterbox or Tails.com who provide dog food on subscription to further minimise the number of trips you need to make.
Grooming servicesOne pet service that has been postponed due to the COVID-19 lockdown is dog grooming. If your pet has regular sessions with a specialist groomer, get in touch with them and ask for tips on how you can maintain or care for your pet yourself until you can book your next session. Little and often tends to be the best approach with grooming to prevent matting or tangles. Consult with your groomer or vet as to the best products or tools to use on your specific breed.
Emotional signalsDog are hugely perceptive and pick up on our emotions and tend to mirror them. If you are currently feeling stressed and anxious, the chances are your dog is too. Be patient with them if they are acting out of sorts (shredding toys, toileting in the house, barking) and try giving them reassuring cues and positive attention. As ever, do your best to keep their daily routine as constant as possible.
Getting back to normalBear in mind that whilst we will naturally be desperate to get back to normal, if your dog has been used to having you around 24/7 for weeks, so immediately withdrawing this human interaction will be difficult for them. If you can, try and build in some extra care for them to gradually get back to their previous level of human time over the next few months.
By Lydia Mansi
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