Dogs are a (hu)man’s best friend and quarantine has only added some good PR to that statement. They love you unconditionally (even when you’re a little crabbier than usual) and they force you to go outside to get some fresh air. They’re also just great companions for the global schedule of snacking, napping, and lounging that most of us (non-essential workers) have adopted.
Our dogs do require consistent attention and care though. Dr. Richardson at Small Door Vet mentions the importance of stimulating your dog at a time like this. “Mental stimulation comes from exercising their mind: from tracking scents, to concentrating hard on obedience training, or attempting to get kibble out of a puzzle toy – tough mental concentration results in a tired, happy dog.” So here are a few tricks to keep your dog busy during isolation.
This one may seem obvious but now that you and your dog are home together 24/7, a schedule is necessary. “Animals have a level of expectation, as do people, and they do much better on a schedule,” says Dr. Babette, VMD, who owns a traditional & holistic veterinary clinic and has an app she encourages you to submit your pet questions on.
Maintaining your usual schedule with your dog will help them navigate this change, explains Dr. Babette. Our dogs are bonded to us so they will be excited at this new and extra time they get. But, it’s important to keep this time productive and organized because once we return to our normal schedules, they could experience separation anxiety. Some productive activities, all of which are elaborated on below, include brushing their teeth, training them, dog yoga and reviewing their diet. Some tips for an effective routine are:
Maintain their usual bathroom breaks.
Eat your meals at the same time as your dog or feed them while you’re prepping your own.
Go for multiple walks at the same time every day. They’ll look forward to these moments in their routine and it’ll get some of their energy out. Your blood will flow too!
Set up play time. There are plenty of suggestions below for fun activities.
Set up a grooming schedule.
Quarantine has created a new-found appreciation of windows for us all. Dr. Richardson suggests creating a special spot for your dog at the window. Of course, safety comes first so ensure that they’re in no danger wherever you set them up but, “If it's safe to do so, open the window a crack and let him/her smell the outside world too - using more senses will provide more mental stimulation and tire him/her out faster!”
Whether you’re looking for entertainment, obedience tips and tricks, rescue stories, or all the above, YouTube has you covered. There are plenty of options out there for all dog-lovers, but here are a few to get you started:
The Dodo is a popular Animal YouTube Channel. Dog-lover or animal-lover in general, this account features explainers, adoption videos, and even a series entitled Dodo Heroes, which follows animal rescue stories.
Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution has a pretty straightforward name. George is a professional Dog Trainer and has a book by the same title. It could be the perfect time to teach your dog some tricks or even that obedience training you’ve been putting off. Most recently, he’s published a video about training your dog during the coronavirus pandemic.
Building off the entertainment options that Youtube has to offer, TikTok provides an even shorter, more entertaining way of interacting with your dog. Some funny dog-dedicated TikTok accounts that will inspire you to start your own are @devinfox22 and @chelseatheyorkie.
Interactive dog toys will exercise your dog's mind and body. Small Door Vet recommends “making your dog work for their treats" by using stuffed kongs or food-dispensing puzzle toys. You can even make your dog work for their meals. There are interactive dog bowls where food is placed in crevices. This slows down a dog’s eating, which prevents regurgitation, stimulates them, and takes up a good portion of their time.
Rotating your dog’s toys will also create novelty for them, keeping your pet pretty excited when you switch out something they’d forgotten about.
Walks are the best. But since it isn’t as easy as it is normally to be outdoors, there's a bunch of indoor games that are sure to exercise your dog… and even you.
If you’ve got kids, this option is for you. Get your dog to sit and/or stay before you go and hide. Then, call them to come and find you. If they don’t know how to sit/stay yet, you can teach them using YouTube training videos or have someone else in the house keep them in place.
Use a toy rope or makeshift one using towels or old t-shirts. It uses up a ton of energy in a limited space - great for our New Yorkers!
For those of you who have more room, set up a homemade obstacle course using whatever you have around, like books, blankets, and recyclable boxes. If your dog hits that out of the park, host an agility show with an obedience category to boot. Then try that on TikTok.
Show your dog a treat, hide it in one of your hands, and have them guess where it is. If they’re right, they get the treat. If not, try again. This is similar to the Three Cup Game or the Shell Game where the treat would be hidden under one of three cups. If your dog masters “Guess the Hand,” level up!
Lots of people have created pantry-inspired meals during this time, so why not try pantry-inspired treats for your dog? Unlike baking for people, homemade dog treats don’t require many ingredients. If you’ve got pumpkin puree, eggs, peanut butter, and some flour, you’re set. There are lots of recipe blogs out there to choose from depending on what you have available or how creative you’re feeling. What’s even better is the treats can be frozen for later. Apple, cucumber, and banana bits work as healthy, easy treats too.
Maybe dog yoga should be called doga since two of the main movements of every flow are inspired by a dog’s natural stretches. This is a style of yoga that’s been around since 2003 and it’s a pretty simple concept: Get moving through simple stretches and poses with your dog.
Doga is a time for you and your pet to interact. It can be through simple eye contact or you can hold them while you flow through your own poses to add some weight to your practice. Dr. Babette encourages lateral stretches to ward off stiffness for your pet. Place a treat on your dog’s shoulder to make them turn their neck, or on their knee to encourage them to extend sideways. Stretching them and interacting with them are what’s important here. Your dog may even try to imitate certain poses so try a downward dog and see if they join in.
After keeping your dog busy with their new schedule, training, grooming sessions, doga, and TikTok account, it’s a perfect time to sit back and Netflix with your dog. If they insist on seeing some of their kind in whatever you choose to watch, check out "Patrick" the movie or "Benji" the Netflix series.