The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting our routine and this affects our pets, in some good and not so good ways. To minimise their being upset by the disruptions, we suggest the following:
- Pets daily lives should be kept as routine as possible
- Continue their regular walking routine where safe to do so while ensuring social distancing is maintained
- Pets on behaviour medications, as with any ongoing medication, should continue to be given to them as normal and not be stopped during this time
- Everyone needs a break from the people they live with at times and this includes pets. If you are home with your pets and children, remember to give your pets a break from the kids if the pet wants it. This may just be a chance to lie in another room or a have a rest outside. Make it a family rule that if the pets are on their bed (or other designated place) they are having a rest and must be left alone
- If you find working at home difficult with your pet, consider restricting them from the room where you are working. A puzzle toy or device that rewards them with treats or a chewing item such as a bone may help settle them. While you are working at home, remember to take breaks – your pets are perfect at helping with that!
- Dogs can still gain the benefit of physical exercise and mental stimulation without leaving the house or yard through games such as fetch, chasing a toy or hide and seek
Here are some activities, and DIY projects you can work on for your dog/s. Most dogs are food motivated, and variation in methods of feeding are a great, easy way to change things up a little in their routine:
- Place your dog’s favourite treats in a loosely rolled up towel or blanket. Give the command ‘find it’. You can make your own ‘snuffle mats’ via this link: https://www.thehonestkitchen.com/blog/diy-make-your-dog-or-cat-a-snuffle-matt/
Old rags, old blankets or towels in the laundry basket with treats hidden works just as well. Eco friendly too!
It is very important to NOT leave snuffle mats or any fabric unattended as some dogs will ingest it and it can lead to an obstruction in their gut.
Food dispensing puzzle toys could slow down feeding and provide mental stimulation for your dog too. You can purchase various food dispensing toys online or form pet shops. Alternatively, you could make your own with plastic water bottles, just follow this link: https://patchpuppy.com/diy-puppy-love/make-your-dog-a-treat-dispensing-toy-from-a-water-bottle/
Again, it is important to NOT leave your dogs unattended with these toys.
The muffin tin game is another alternative feeding tool that you can easily set up at home. All you need is a muffin tin, a few tennis balls and some treats! Place some treats in the tray and cover it with tennis balls. Make sure you show your dog where the treats are before covering it, then sit back and watch your dog paw away looking for those treats.
- Stuffed Kong toy and lick mats could provide hours of distraction. There are plenty of different food you can stuff in a Kong to encourage their interest in the toy. For example, you can mix dry kibble with chicken and beef broth then freeze it. Or carrot mixed in peanut butter (make sure the peanut butter doesn’t contain xylitol if it’s a low sugar formula), banana with cream cheese, blueberries with broth. The combinations are endless.
Frozen stuffed Kong makes it harder for your dog to get to the treats and provides longer periods of entertainment: https://www.kongcompany.com/en-au/
Lick mats, like the Kong, lasts longer if it’s frozen and are a great distraction for your pet. Any pastes that are sticky, such as peanut butter, yogurt, cream cheese or vegemite are suitable to place on a lick mat. It can be a useful training tool to desensitise your dog for performing stressful tasks such as nail trim or baths. However, you need to make sure your dog is accepting the lick pad prior to performing any stressful actions.
- Interactive games can be a lot of fun that also strengthens our bond with our best friends.
A game of tug of war is a good physical challenge for both parties. Win-win!. You could make your own tug toy using old towels or t-shirts. There are plenty of websites that offer instructions on various dog toys. But here’s one for easy reference: https://www.everydaydogmom.com/diy-upcycled-t-shirt-dog-toy/
Playing fetch indoors with a LIGHTWEIGHT ball can be a lot of fun too. Just make sure you don’t break anything during the process. Hide and seek is a good game for both your furry and non- furry children. This is a good time to train your dog to learn the ‘stay’ command as well. If your dog doesn’t have a good stay command, you can ask a family member’s help by distracting them as you go and hide.
Check out this compilation of cute hide and seek videos. Absolutely adorable! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IuRRUBALCqY
- You can be creative by creating an indoor obstacle course for your dog. You can start by using a rolled-up towel and train your dog to jump over it. Then move on to using soft toys to teach them to weave around the stuff toy. Once this has been mastered, you can create larger obstacles and increase the complexity of your obstacle course. For example, a broom stick stacked on top of book piles on both sides to jump over and weighted empty 2L soft drink or milk containers to weave through.
- With the extra time we have now to interact with our furry friends, it is a good opportunity to master the basics of obedience, teach our dog/s some new tricks, and build better, happier bonds with them!