Coronavirus and Self-isolation for Dog Owners

With the Coronavirus spreading and restrictions on going out are getting tighter, what on earth do you do if you are a dog owner?  Don’t you need to be out walking your dog twice a day?   The answer is no actually….you do not.

Your dog will be fine if he is not walked for a couple of weeks.  In fact, if you have a dog that is fearful or other dogs, strangers or noises when out on a walk, this will actually be a welcome break for them.  Did you know that it can actually take 72 hours for a dog to return to his base mental state if he has experienced something scary? 

Here are some ideas for what to do with your dog if you are in isolation or on lockdown:

  • If you would usually feed your dog from a bowl – stop!  There are a huge number of food activity toys available on the market.  Kongs are great for filling with wet or raw food.  If your dog is new to Kongs, make it really easy for them by outing just a spoonful of food in around the top and give it to your dog to lick out.  As your dog works out how to get the food, you can gradually start to fill it with more food.  If it is too difficult at first, your dog may give up.  Once your dog gets the hang of it, you can then try freezing the food in the Kong.  This makes for a greater challenge and will keep your dog occupied for longer.  Chewing releases endorphins for dogs, so in turn, this will make them feel happier.
  • If your dog doesn’t like getting food out from Kongs and are not aggressive chewers, try freezing some food in a cow’s hoof.  Spirit my Border Collie would much prefer to get his food out of a hoof than a Kong. 
  • If you dog is fed on kibble, you can scatter his food all around the house/garden for him to sniff out.  Get your children involved –  ask them to make treasure hunts and trails with the food.  If your dog likes to chase, roll a piece of kibble along the floor.  As your dog gets it and comes back to you, throw another piece in another direction.  Alternatively, teach your dogs to catch the food by throwing it up above their nose one piece at a time.  Their co-ordination will soon improve with practise! 
  •  You can hide food in cardboard boxes with scrunched up paper, put some in kitchen rolls with the ends folded up or in plastic bottles with the lids removed.  Your recycling can make great food dispensers for your dogs – just do not give your dog anything that they are likely to swallow.  Always supervise them when playing these games.
  • Everyone has gone mad buying toilet rolls! So put the empty rolls to good use.  Stick them upright in a cardboard box and hide treats in them for your dog to find.
  • Get a muffin tray and fill the holes with tennis balls hiding treats underneath.
  • Snufflemats are great to hide food in for your dogs to sniff out, but shaggy bath mats also work well and are a lot cheaper!
  • The Buster Activity Mat is also a product I love.  It’s like a baby jungle for dogs – puzzles are buttoned onto a mat and dogs have to work out how to get the treats.  Other great products are the Buster Cube, Kong Wobblers (you can put in a tennis ball for extra difficulty) and the Busy Buddy range.
  • Children’s paddling pools work well for filling with leaves/sand/earth and hiding treats and toys for your dog to dig up and find.  For more of an indoor activity, fill the pool with ball pool balls and hide dry food for your dog to search out – my dogs love playing amongst all the balls.
  • Use your time at home to train your dog out of behaviours that have been bugging you for ages but just haven’t had the time to fix.  Does he jump up at counters or when you walk into the room?  Does he bark at the tv?  Does he steal food?  Not come in from the garden?  Pull on the lead?  A few minutes a day of training is all you need.  If you are unsure of how to train your dog out of any behaviours, then why not do a video call with us?  We offer hourly remote training sessions through WhatsApp/Facebook/Skype/Zoom where we can help you without having to actually come round to your house.
  • Use your dog’s daily food allowance to teach your dog some new behaviours.  Ever fancied a go at teaching some fun tricks?  How about some scentwork?  We will have some online courses available very soon for you to train your dog form the comfort of your own home!
  • Attach a toy to a line or flirt pole and have a great fun of chase with your dog.  Keep the toy low and moving away from your dog on the floor – make sure the surface is not slippery! The toy mimics prey and your dog will burn a good amount of energy after a few minutes of playing.  This is great for biting puppies too – it gives them something acceptable to mouth rather than your hands and feet!  And if you are unwell, you can lay on the sofa and drag the toy around on the floor – thus requiring minimal energy on your part!
  • If your dog likes to play fetch, add in an element of difficulty by asking your dog to stay whilst you hide the toy just out of sight.  Go back to your dog, ask him to go and find it and then reward him for bringing it back to you.  You can even teach him the names of his toys.  Gradually you can hide the toy further away so your dog really has to search for it.
  • Teach your dog some self control games.  Do they rush out of the door as soon as it is opened or would they immediately steal food if within reach?  Perhaps you have more than one dog and you would like to train one dog at a time whilst the others remain calm and laying still in the same room?  I love teaching my dogs self-control and as I have five dogs, it is a necessity especially around food and exciting places such as the back door!  It also really uses the dog’s brain and helps to promote calmness.  These games are perfect for really high drive energetic breeds that you may think you need to always physically tire them out!

Here is a video tutorial showing you how to start teaching  self control around food:

I hope this gives you some ideas of what to do with your dog.  These are all great things to do on a regular basis anyway – whether we are in a virus epidemic or not! 

If you do need any further help on any aspects of training or your dog’s behaviour, please give us a call on 07739 815 265, or email at [email protected]

Let us know how you get on!