With so many of us practicing social distancing to protect both ourselves and others, self-isolating with your dog is something that many of us will be doing. And while spending two straight weeks with your pet by your side might sound incredible, it’s easy to feel cooped up, especially when you and your pup are used to being active and enjoying the outdoors. These tips will help make this time even easier, helping to add balance to your quarantine and reduce feelings of stress.
Preparing for Self-Isolation with Your Dog
1. The Essentials
When you have a four-legged family member in your home, it’s important to ensure that you’re stocked up on the essentials for them. Perhaps most obvious is the amount of food that your dog will need for a two-week quarantine. Other necessities include any care products that you need for your dog, like supplements, treats, and shampoos.
If you’re not able to head to your local pet store yourself or have a friend or family member head out for you, place an order online to have your supplies safely delivered to you. Many pet stores are also offering curbside pick-up if you’re able to leave your house.
While it’s best to stick with your usual brand of pet food, a subscription of fresh foods from brands like Kabo can be a great way to get nutrition for your pet delivered to your door in this uncertain time. Many pet companies are also offering special deals during this time to help pet owners out. For example, Healthybud is currently offering a free bag of treats and free shipping with the purchase of two of their products so make sure to check out your go-to brands.
2. Medications & Healthcare
Like for yourself, you’ll want to ensure that your pet has any and all medications they require before you go into self-isolation. Contact your vet’s office about the best way to handle this. Keep in mind if your dog is due for any anti-flea medications or vaccines, and contact your vet to see if they’d like to see your dog before you go into self-isolation.
Because vet care is seen as an essential service, your vet may also be able to help you access necessary pet supplies and may also be able to provide consults over telephone or video chat to further help with care while maintaining a distance. Telehealth services like GoFetch Health can be a great resource at this time.
3. A Back-Up Plan
As long as you remain healthy and able to care for yourself, you’ll likely be able to continue to care for your pet during these uncertain times. However, it can help to ease anxiety to have a plan in place should you need someone to temporarily take care of your pet. For this, ensure you have a list of your dog’s current vaccinations and any medications ready, as well as identification.
If you’re in quarantine due to illness, you might want to consider having someone else walk your dog for you, as walks can be an important part of your dog’s physical and mental well-being. If you decide to go this route, ensure that you maintain social distance from your dog walker and take the proper precautions to avoid transferring germs.
Keeping Busy While in Self-Isolation
Like us, our dogs can become bored when cooped up inside all the time. Use these activities to help keep your dog engaged.
4. Search and Seek
This fun twist on hide and seek is a great way to encourage your dogs to use their sniffer and do some scent work. Because many dogs are conditioned to use their nose to seek out prey, this is a great way to tap into their natural desires. If you’re alone with your dog, it might be easiest to hide their favourite treats or toys around the house.
Start with allowing your pet to see you hiding the treat and then guide them out of the room and instruct them to “seek” to get them used to the idea that if they find the treat they get to eat it. You can also play this game by hiding yourself and allowing your dog to find you to involve not only the sense of scent but also the senses of sight and hearing.
Have a family member hold your dog and allow your dog to see you hide. Instruct your dog to seek, and reward your dog with plenty of praise and play when they do find you. You can work on increasing the length of time after hiding before your release your dog and difficulty of hiding places to progress the game. This can also be a great game to help reinforce the command of stay.
5. Dog Puzzle Games
While good-old-fashioned squeaker toys and balls are awesome, puzzle toys are a great interactive toy that keeps your dog engaged for longer while also allows them to work their brain a little. Here are a few of our favourites to get you started:
- The Classic Kong, which can be stuffed with peanut butter or treats, is a great way to keep your dog occupied on their own and is a simple introduction to problem-solving.
- Nina Ottoson makes a wide range of puzzle toys that you can choose from based on your dog’s familiarity with puzzles. These toys require your dog to slide, paw, turn and seek to uncover treats.
- A snuffle mat essentially looks like a fluffy shag carpet that you hide treats in, requiring your dog to use its nose to find them. Because this puzzle toy requires less movement, it’s awesome for dogs who are new to nose work, are older, or who have difficulty seeing.
- Outward Hound’s plush puzzle toys don’t require any treats and are inspired by your dog’s desire for burrowing. Just hide the little squeaky toys in the base, and allow your dog to find pull them out.
- If your dog has a great desire for digging, the iDig can help to satisfy this urge. Just hide treats in the flaps, and let your dog dig through to find them.
- Busy Buddy’s toys dispense treats as your pet plays, which keeps them occupied for longer, making this a great option if you need something to keep your dog busy while working from home.
If you’re not able to grab a dog puzzle or want to make use of what you have at home, there are several ways that you can make interactive dog toys:
- Rotating Cup Game: Create a makeshift puzzle toy by hiding a treat under a cup and getting your pet to identify which cup the treat is hidden under, mixing them up as your pet progresses (or even have them guess what hand you have a treat hidden in!).
- Muffin Tin Puzzle: Turn a muffin tin upside down and stick treats in the indents to allow your pet to find them. If you’re looking for a challenging puzzle, you can flip the muffin tin right side up and stick treats in the cups and cover them with a tennis ball so your dog has to figure out to remove the tennis ball to find the treats. To make it more of a challenge, don’t put treats in all the cups.
- Tennis Treat Ball: Got an old tennis ball kicking around? Use it to make a treat ball by cutting a hole in the side and stuffing it with treats. Your dog will need to roll and chew the ball to get the treats to come out.
- Cereal Box Toy: Hide treats in an older cereal box and tape up the top to keep it closed (or just shut the box to make it easier). Your dog will need to figure out to rip the cardboard to get to the treats. To take this up a notch, you can use several boxes and nest them inside each other.
- Popsicle Toy: Although it’s less of a puzzle, this is a great way to keep your dog occupied. Freeze a few of their favorite treats in water or chicken broth so your dog will need to lick at it to get to their treat.
- Old Peanut Butter Jar: Save the last little bit of your peanut butter and give it to your dog to lick out for a time-occupying treat. If you want to make it even more of a challenge, you can even leave the lid on and have them figure out how to unscrew it.
6. Teaching New Tricks
With all this extra time on our hands, now is a great time to take advantage of it and up your dog’s training. If your dog needs a brush up on essential commands like sit, come, stay, and leave it, now is a great time to work on practicing these and add a little doggy training homeschool to your daily routine.
If your dog is already a master and you’re looking for something a little more exciting, spin, play dead, sit pretty, back up, wave, and take a bow are all fun ideas. There are a number of great ways to access dog training from home with resources like Dunbar Academy and Kikopup’s Youtube channel. A local dog trainer in Guelph has even created a 30-Day Facebook Group with daily dog training challenges to keep you busy during this time.
7. Indoor Agility Course
Agility is a fantastic source of exercise for your dog and also helps to give your dog the opportunity to practice obedience skills, improve your bond and communication skills, and helps to increase your dog’s confidence.
Get creative in your own home and create a little obstacle course to guide your dog through in your home: use a blanket draped over two chairs to create a makeshift tunnel, or use cushions or a pool noodle or hula hoop to create a jump.
You can use cones or other markers to create “weave poles”. And since you’re limited indoors, get creative and use what you have to add more skills to the course, such as fetching their favorite toy.
8. Bake Your Pet Treats
Baking is a great time pass for you, and we bet your pup will love having an extra treat! Making pet treats at home is great because you’re able to control the ingredients that go in them, and many of them use pantry essentials you already have. Here are a few recipes to get you started:
- Yogurt Banana Dog Treats
- Peanut Butter Pumpkin Dog Treats
- No-Bake Dog Treats
- Healthy Sweet Potato Dog Treats
- Pumpkin Carrot Pupcakes
9. Have a Doggy Photoshoot
While we’re sure you have plenty of cute pictures of your pup, when’s the last time you took some high-quality snaps of your best friend? With cell phone cameras being such great quality now, it’s really easy to take pictures of your pet (and maybe even set them up with their own Instagram account?).
Natural light is the best so, if you’re able, set up your photography space next to a window. Use props, like your dog’s favourite toy or treats to capture their personality.
The best pictures are taken from getting down on your dog’s level, especially since so many pictures of our pets are taken from above. Check out Pinterest to get some inspiration, and let yourself play around with different angles to see what works best. Pro tip: Use burst mode to avoid missing the perfect shot of a busy subject.
10. TV Time & Extra Cuddles
Just because you’re practicing self-isolation, doesn’t mean that you have to be productive all the time! Your pet with appreciate extra love and cuddles, and it can help to ease both of your stress levels with the change in routine. You can also try face-timing with a furry friend or family member to stay social without physically being anywhere.
You and your dog might especially enjoy watching some animals, such as Vancouver Aquarium’s Sea Otter Cam or Calgary Zoo’s Daily Dose. DogTV is also offering a 30-Day Free Trial to help people and their pets get through self-isolation. Their programs are designed to provide comfort to your dog while they’re along, so this would be another great thing to turn on if you’re working from home.
Self-isolation is hard for us all, especially pets who are sensitive to a change in routine and don’t understand why they aren’t doing their daily activities. If your dog is showing signs of anxiety-like a loss of appetite, increased bad behaviour, or acting lethargic, be sure to contact your vet via phone to see how you can support your dog during this time.