Lifestyle

Make the Most of Social Distancing with Your Dog

social distancing with your dog

During this intense and confusing time, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with information. But healthcare workers, epidemiologists, and governments are united on one thing: staying home, and practising social distancing, will help contain the spread of coronavirus. 

As our lives have become busier, our social calendars more crammed, and our to-do lists longer, the call to suddenly stay home feels jarring. But it’s also an opportunity to slow down, rest, and refocus.

Saying that, there is one reality that can’t be ignored–your dog is stoked.

As we’ve written about before, those aforementioned packed schedules can be stressful for our pets. While they certainly appreciate all the special treats, snacks, and toys we buy them, they mostly just want to hang out with their family.

So take advantage of social distancing with your dog. While you might be keeping your distance from everyone else in your life, the American Veterinary Medical Association has expressly suggested that pet owners keep interacting with their animals as if nothing was going on. 

Judging by the trending hashtags #QuarantinedCats and #QuarantineDogs, pets around the world are already enjoying the extra company. But if you are looking for ways to pass the time with your dog, we have a few ideas to get you started.

Know the Difference Between Social Distancing and Quarantine

Before we get stuck into all the nice things about social distancing with your dog, we should specify that this advice relates to social distancing when you’re well and haven’t been in contact with anyone with coronavirus. That means reducing social interactions as a way to contain the spread. It’s different from quarantine. For more on the distinctions, check out NPR’s breakdown.

Recommendations around looking after pets under quarantine are different. A lot of the below information won’t apply. But you can read more about best practices around quarantining with pets here.

Be Prepared

The advice against stockpiling massive amounts of supplies applies to our dogs too. Make sure you have a couple of weeks of pet food at home in case you need to quarantine suddenly. But there’s no need to panic buy a year’s worth of groceries. Going overboard and hoarding products means you’re stopping someone else from accessing their share. It’s a real jerk move.

If you’re well, and haven’t been exposed, you can still pop down to the shops to pick up what you need. This article has some advice on how to make sure you’re being extra hygienic when you do. Or, skip carrying a big bag of dog food home by signing up with direct-to-consumer brands, like Scratch.

Don’t forget other essentials. Make sure you have cleaning supplies and flea, tick, and heartworm treatments. If your pet takes medication, call your vet about filling an extra script.

If you don’t have a yard, consider also buying some pee pads in case you’re not able to take them for a walk at any point. The New York Times have some more information about managing that.

Outside Time

If you’re skipping the gym or classes, make sure you’re still prioritising exercise. It’s an important part of maintaining physical and mental health. Luckily, you have a live-in workout buddy who couldn’t be more excited to stretch their legs with you.

As we’ve written previously: “A daily walk is also an expression of love; especially if you follow a routine. Dogs like doing the same thing each day, it makes them feel safe and builds trust. It’s also a good chance to do training exercises together. Dogs interpret this pattern of rewarding their behaviour with treats or pats as affection.”

Walks and runs can both be kept up while social distancing. If your pet likes dog parks, keep dropping by. Just make sure you’re staying six feet away from other owners while you chat, and always wash your hands as soon as you get home.

Training

Social distancing with your dog is a perfect time to finally get on top of all the training you’ve been meaning to do. Anyone who has tried and failed to teach their pet a new trick or behaviour can tell you that it requires time and a regular routine–two things you’re suddenly flush with. 

If you need a bit of help getting started, there are zillions of great videos on YouTube.

As with exercise, your dog loves regular activities that allow them to spend focused one-on-one time with you. And as people online have been discovering, pets make pretty good playmates.

Puzzle Time

While you’re pulling out that dusty jigsaw puzzle you thought you’d never finish, consider how you’re keeping your dog’s mind occupied. Puzzle toys, occupier treats, and food dispensers can make ordinary meal times more engaging for your pet.

If you don’t have any lying around, you can hide treats around the house in empty boxes for them to find. Think of it like a treasure hunt…with kibble. There are heaps of other homemade puzzle ideas online too.

Couch It

Honestly, don’t overthink this. When do you ever have a chance to relax on the couch and watch all the movies and TV you’ve been meaning to catch up on? No one loves couch time like your dog. For them, lazing around with you is a way of saying you trust each other totally and are part of the same pack.

If you’re looking for some movie recommendations while social distancing with your dog, we’ve got you covered. Or you could be really selfless and indulge in the growing trend of dog TV.

Catch up on Podcasts

As we hit “peak podcast”, it can feel impossible to keep up with all the new releases. So, like with movies, consider this a time to binge and clear your “must listen” list. Your dog doesn’t need to be neglected either, Audible and Spotify have specialty audio programing for pets.

Get Crafty

Not all dogs like getting dressed up, but if your pet is a fashion fan you could try knitting them a new jumper. There are honestly so many tutorials on this it’s hard to know where to start. The online dog knitting community is richer than we could have ever imagined. But we’d recommend this Wikihow to get you going.

When in Doubt, Bake

One outcome of all this is people are rediscovering the joys of baking and cooking. There’s no reason why your dog should miss out. Most homemade dog treats require no fancy ingredients, you probably have everything you need in your pantry right now. If you thought your dog loved you before, just wait until they discover that peanut butter and bacon biscuits are a thing.

Daydream About Your Next Trip Together

Yes, you will not be going on a holiday for a while. That’s ok. But it’s important to remember that eventually things will settle down. Keep that in sight by planning your next pet-friendly holiday. 

We’ve got lots of suggestions for dog holidays (dogidays? No, sorry). Check out:
The Best Dog-Friendly Airbnb’s for a Victorian Getaway 
Melbourne’s Best Dog-friendly Beaches
Melbourne’s Top Dog-Friendly Cafe
The Best Dog-friendly Airbnbs in New South Wales 
The Best Sydney Dog Beaches to Explore this Summer
The Best Brisbane Dog-Friendly Cafes

Finally, Wash Your Hands!

We’ll defer to the ABC for more on that.

Remember, take care of yourself and each other.

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Written by Wendy Syfret
Wendy is Head of Media at Scratch. Which is a good fit, because she's never met a dog she didn't like. Although she has a special place in her heart for muts: three legs, one eye, missing fur, bit of a weird walk? The scruffier the better. Her favourite dog in the whole world though is her terrier-mix Stevie.