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We know that current lockdown and government restrictions on outdoor exercise are challenging for dog owners. We want to provide some inspiration and advice on how to keep your beloved pets fit and healthy during this time.
The biggest challenge for most owners is reduction in dog walking due to the once daily, one hourly outdoor exercise limit. Firstly, if there are multiple people in your household able to safely exercise outdoors, take your exercise separately so your dogs can still get multiple walks a day! Remember to maintain 2m social distancing and you may wish to ask people not to touch your dog: while not considered the main route of transmission, it is possible that the virus may survive for periods of time on the fur of our beloved pets. Therefore, our animals may be able to act as a possible route of transmission if other people interact with them and don’t wash their hands. If you are self isolating, you can ask a friend to walk your dog for you. Always follow social distancing and hand washing procedures when handing over your dog.
Take a ball on a walk to make the most of time outside to tire them out. This may be a good time to try some agility with more active dogs: consider homemade jumps in the garden, exercise hoops or sticks for weaving . Agility is a great way to mentally exercise our furry friends too.
Aside from exercise, there are other ways to stimulate your dog in the house. This is a great opportunity to teach your dog new tricks, they are never too old! Use food puzzles as a way to keep them entertained too. There’s no need to use extra treats, just feed their normal meals in a puzzle feeder; you can find these online or make them at home by hiding food inside Kong toys or old cardboard boxes. Toys are a great way to keep your dog entertained too. If you have a number of toys, consider rotating them so that they don’t become bored as quickly. Think outside the box too! Blowing bubbles or making obstacle courses are things to try. The Blue Cross (https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/coronavirus-indoor-dog-games) and Battersea (https://www.battersea.org.uk/pet-advice/dog-advice/brain-games-dogs)websites both have good articles with enrichment and game ideas.
It may be tempting whilst at home with your dog to show them just how much you love them with treats and extra food! You needn’t feel guilty about this as long as you remember to take these treats out of their daily calorie allowance of breakfast and dinner (you will need to reduce their meal sizes to allow for extra treats). You don’t need to use special treats to reward your dog, their normal food will still be a treat for them! If they usually have 2 meals a day, why not spread the same amount of food out into 3 or 4 smaller meals, and consider hiding their biscuits all over the house. This is both mentally and physically enriching, warding off boredom. Be careful not to feed extra food during this time and risk your pet becoming overweight: diabetes, heart disease and joint disease are all common as a result of weight gain.
Have you ever considered brushing your dog’s teeth? Some owners may be horrified at the idea! However, it is possible to train your dog to accept tooth brushing, and what a better time to try than during a lockdown with more time on your hands. Make sure you use special animal toothbrushes or soft children’s toothbrushes. Do not use human toothpaste but reach instead for specially made meat flavoured animal toothpastes. Doing this daily will help prevent painful (and smelly!) dental disease developing, which ultimately requires a general anaesthetic to clean and treat.