Everything we humans have felt during the past few weeks, dogs have felt too. The lockdown, the new routines, the blazing heat… it’s all strange and unfamiliar. But at least we, as humans, can achieve some level of understanding; for our pets, this period can be confusing and unsettling (and a bit exciting too!).
Here’s how to keep your pup happy and healthy in the coming months.
Dogs in hot weather
The most immediate factor influencing your dog’s wellbeing right now is the weather. The changing weather conditions typically affect our behaviour, so as well as thinking about the heat, we also need to be thinking about tempering our own routines.
When the sun shines and the temperatures rise, it can be very tempting to take your four-legged friend out for a longer-than-normal walk - especially as the lockdown rules ease. But remember, your dog needs a certain amount of exercise, both in terms of distance and time, and exceeding that can be dangerous for their health.
A new tool - Work Out Your Walkies - was released recently with the support of leading dog behaviourist Nick Jones MA to clarify the distance and time your dog needs to walk based on their age and breed.
It goes without saying that you should always take plenty of water on a walk and plan your route to include shade. A spokesperson for the RSPCA told us they are “encouraging owners to take extra care during the hot weather: to avoid exercising their pets during the hottest times of the day, to ensure they always have access to shade and fresh water, and to never leave them in a car, conservatory or caravan in the warm weather.”
While getting outdoors with your pet is important, it’s also really beneficial to keep them mentally agile by playing with them indoors, too.
Of course, this doesn’t mean playing with your dog all the time, as it’s good to give him/her alone time to retain some normality if you’re normally out at work all day and now you’re working from home (read our guide to reducing separation anxiety for more on this). But it’s certainly worth investing time in stimulating activities that keep your dog active.
Try these simple activities with your dog:
Introduce new games
Playing games with your dog is a great way to keep them stimulated, and introducing new games makes it even more fun for you and for them!
If you haven’t before, try a game of hide and seek; simply choose some of their favourite toys and treats and hide them around the house, encouraging your pup to find them with hints and tips along the way.
Give them something new to explore
A new toy can add new stimulation into your pup’s day. Anything with gaps they can nuzzle into or different textures is good to get them engaged. Toys you can hide food inside also work well, as there’s a treat in return for their inquisitiveness!
Teach them some new tricks
The old adage would suggest that old dogs can’t learn new tricks but, according to leading dog behaviour experts, that simply isn’t the case. Try reinforcing simple tricks like ‘sit’, ‘lie down’ and ‘stay’ by rewarding the behaviour with treats and praise. You may find your pup can learn some more complex tricks too, now you have more time together.
Puppy friendly podcasts and TV shows
If you are working from home, it can be tough to keep your dog stimulated all the time. That’s where dog friendly podcasts and TV shows can be really handy. YouTube has plenty of options to keep your dog entertained.
Keeping to a routine
With all of the changes around Covid-19, you will find your own routine is disrupted. Remember that, though it’s a strange time for everyone, we as humans can at least understand what’s happening to an extent, whereas our dogs will be having to constantly adapt with little understanding of why.
If you’ve been in lockdown for weeks, for example, it’s important to recognise that this has become ‘normal’ for your dog, so suddenly changing your routine as lockdown rules ease could be upsetting and confusing for them.
Where possible, aim for consistency. If you would typically walk once a day, continue to walk once a day. If they typically eat twice a day, continue to feed them twice a day. There’s nothing wrong with making the most of the extra time you have with your furry friend, but be mindful of the fact that when things do return to ‘normal’, they’re going to miss you as much as you’ll miss them!