During the Convid-19 pandemic crisis it’s important to follow the government’s advice on social distancing and limiting your time outside.
The UK government have said that people should only break self-isolation when absolutely necessary and should only leave their homes if they have a “reasonable excuse”. This includes a form of exercise once a day – alone, or with members of your household.
Dog walking is permitted as part of the one form of daily exercise outlined by the new rules. But it’s important to stay local.
But some larger breeds and high energy dogs need a lot more physical activity in a day. Mental stimulation for your dog is also important for their wellbeing.
Below is some advice and tips for keeping your dog active and entertained during the pandemic.
Play Hide and Seek
This is a very basic but fun game to play with your dog that keeps them active as well as stimulates them mentally. It’s simple and enjoyable enough that even the oldest or laziest of dogs will want to play.
This quick video breaks down the basics:
All you need is:
- A dog (this is always good advice for most situations)
- Some treats
- Good hiding spots
Even if your dog doesn’t follow the stay command at the start, running away from dog and hiding somewhere can still be a fun activity.
When your dog finds you make sure you celebrate the win by giving them treats or a lot of attention. This will keep your dog engaged in the game for longer.
Tug of War
If your dog is properly trained, playing tug of war with your dog is a great way to keep them active. Your dog should know a release command before you begin. This gives you control of when the games stops and prevents the game from getting out of hand.
A properly managed game of tug of war is a great way to tire younger dogs out, especially those who are used to more than one walk a day.
Important note: Puppies whose teeth are still developing and dogs with a dental issues shouldn’t play tug of war.
Choosing The Right Toy Is Important
Dogs have incredible bite and jaw strength and tug toys are made to be tough, durable, and flexible. It’s important for safety (for you and your dog) that the tug toy should be designed for tug games.
Keeping a designated set of toys for tugging only is also important for behaviour reasons. Using the same toy for fetch play and tug games can confuse the dog about which activity they are about to do.
Playing Tug of War
Clear a large of furniture and distractions before you begin. You should also always start any tug games with your dog. This makes it clear you are in charge of when games begin.
Dogs become very excited during tug of war and this is normal. You can expect growling and tail wagging. But if you sense your dog is getting too over-excited – take a break.
If you dog’s teeth accidently contact your skin you should stop the game. This helps sets out boundaries that this is not okay and reminds the dog to be careful with their teeth.
Keep your dog encouraged by letting them win when they behave correctly during the game.
Indoor Fetch Games
You can still play fetch while indoors. For the sake of your furniture and other valuables, it’s best not to use anything that will bounce. Training dummies make good toys for in the house fetch games as you can also hide treats in them.
Getting your dog to run up and down stairs while fetching is a great way to tire out puppies and more active dogs.
Fetch is meant to be fun for your dog, so if they start losing interest then the game is over. So don’t force them to play or punish them if they don’t participate.
If your dog is new to fetch and retrieve, here are some basic tips on getting them started:
Safety Tip:Don’t over-exercise your dog with fetch and retrieve games. Some dogs get over-stimulated during repetitive activities and don’t know when to stop. This can lead to fatigue and even mental distress. So limit the amount of time you play fetch.
You should rotate your dog’s toys weekly and make sure there are only four or five toys played with at a time. This doesn’t include comfort toys, like a soft toy they cuddle with for example. If your dog has a favourite toy they keep in their bed then you should let them have access to it.
Toy variety is important. Having a mix of textures and toy types available in each week’s cycle will help prevent your dog missing certain toys and keep them engaged.
Rotating active and playing toys helps prolong the life of the toys and keeps your dog interested in them. Keeping a set of four or five toys out also works as a good reminder to clean the out of rotation ones. This gives you a chance to wash and dry them.
Doggy Dens, Safe Spaces and Sleep
Your dog probably already has a spot the regard as safe and secure in your home. This may not be necessarily where they sleep, but a spot they go to calm down and have some peace and quiet.
With a large number of people now working from home, and with the children not being at school, during lockdown, it’s important to keep in mind your dog’s needs.
If possible, make sure they have a spot where they can go for rest away from busy activity. This can be a den or simply a corner of a room that’s theirs.
The Dog’s Trust have a simple video on how to keep dog’s calm during firework season, which can be useful for setting up a den during lockdown:
The amount of sleep your needs depends on their age and breed, but on average adult dogs sleep between 12 and 14 hours a day. Puppies can sleep up to 18 hours a day.
Just like humans, getting enough sleep is important to dog’s health and wellbeing. With the lockdown you are likely to be at home more often/continuously, so in this in mind when your dog is sleeping during in the day, and ensure the quiet spots remains calm.