The world is currently experiencing one of the most trying times in history. With so many cities, states, and entire countries issuing stay-at-home orders across the globe, stress, fear, boredom, and a plethora of other feelings and emotions have become a prevalent part of everyday life.
Our canine companions aren’t immune to the lockdown-induced emotional toll. Pups are experts at reading their owners’ facial expressions and gestures, as well as tuning into their pet parents’ ever-changing state of emotions. So, if you’re feeling stressed, chances are your dog is, too.
Individuals looking for advice on staying mentally and physically well during lockdown have a plethora of online resources at their fingertips. But, how do we ensure our four-legged family members remain happy and healthy in the midst of a global pandemic?
Below, we highlight 15 surefire ways to boost your pup’s spirits and overall health during lockdown:
1. Take Advantage of Your Extra Time Together
One of the perks of a mandated staycation is the fact that we have oodles of extra time to spend with our canines. Whether you’re snuggling on the sofa watching a dog-friendly movie or teaching your pooch new tricks, be sure to prioritize time together to stave off boredom and strengthen your bond.
2. Stick to a Daily Routine
Even when the world is in chaos, it’s important to infuse structure into each day and stick to a daily schedule. In many cases, this requires establishing a new normal, as many pet parents who typically work outside the home are currently homebound.
Routines have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in humans, and have an overall calming effect. These benefits directly affect our pups by reducing tension in the home.
3. Prioritize Daily Physical Activity
Like humans, dogs need regular exercise to maintain optimal physical and mental health. Lack of activity can lead to weight gain, loss of muscle mass, and problem behaviors, which can be particularly frustrating for pet owners during lockdown. If at all possible, get outside for regular exercise sessions, as outdoor time activates the mind and is excellent for sensory stimulation. If you do venture outdoors, be sure to abide by any rules regarding social distancing in your area.
4. Make Exercise Fun & Keep It Safe
Physical activity doesn’t have to be grueling to count as a workout. Try playing fetch or Frisbee in the backyard, enjoying a leisurely walk, or creating an indoor obstacle course for your pet. While routine is important, keep activity time fun by switching things up regularly.
Whether your pooch is exercising indoors or out, always take safety precautions. Expert dog trainer Zak George offers some great tips for keeping your dog safe during exercise in this fast and informative video tutorial.
5. Don’t Skimp on Your Dog’s Diet
The plummeting state of our current economy has many folks unemployed or underemployed. Now more than ever, people are spending only on essential items, including food for themselves and their pets.
To ensure your pup continues to eat a balanced, nutritious diet, look for lower-cost, nutrient-rich food and snacks, and be sure to avoid feeding your pet table scraps. Your canine needs a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fats, which can all be found in high-quality dog foods.
Money-saving tip: Don’t forget to compare prices online and check for deals and coupons prior to making a purchase. For example, Chewy.com offers a 30% discount on first-time auto-ship orders, along with free shipping on many items.
6. Spoil Your Furry Friend with Homemade Dog Treats
With lockdown orders in place, many of us humans have extra time on our hands. Why not treat your pup to some homemade treats from the oven? We love this deliciously simple dog treat recipe, which calls for just six ingredients, including pumpkin and peanut butter. Yum!
7. Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Demeanor
According to WebMD, dogs who experience life changes can develop feelings of depression. Shifts in routine may have your dog feeling down. If you notice changes in his demeanor and/or behavior, it’s important to keep him engaged. Inactivity, lack of appetite, withdrawal, and lack of interest in activities he once enjoyed are all signs your pup isn’t feeling up to par.
If your pet’s mood doesn’t improve within a few days, contact his veterinarian, as there may be an underlying medical condition at play.
8. Pamper Your Pooch
We could all use a little pampering during these uncertain times. Along with your own self-care, now is a great time to give your dog some extra TLC. If your pooch visits the groomer on a regular basis, try reenacting the experience at home. PetMD has published an excellent resource dedicated to all things grooming. Click here to learn how to properly brush and bathe your canine, along with tips on haircuts, shaving, and nail trimming at home.
9. Snuggle with Your Pup
You’ve probably heard that hugs and cuddling release feel-good chemicals in the body. This isn’t just the case in humans; dogs benefit similarly when it comes to snuggles. Staying home for a prolonged period of time can feel isolating for both pups and their parents, but spending downtime together can help ward off loneliness, sadness, and stress for both dogs and their humans.
10. Give Your Dog Space
Just as many people need solo time to rest and recharge, some dogs crave lots of alone time. For those times when your pup just isn’t in the mood to snuggle up, create a dedicated area in your home where he can retreat to relax and enjoy his solitude.
While lots of canines can’t get enough of their owners’ affection, not every dog enjoys together time 24/7. Being aware and considerate of your pet’s need for cuddles and time on his own could actually bring you closer together.
11. Swap Out Toys to Keep Playtime Fun
Consecutive days spent indoors can lead to cabin fever for both humans and their pups. Bored canines often resort to chewing and other unwanted behaviors, but switching up your pet’s toy selection can help ward off boredom and keep playtime interesting. Puzzle toys and treat-stuffed toys are particularly popular among pooches.
We recommend keeping a stash of various types of toys on-hand and swapping them out every couple of days. If your current selection is lacking variety, consider a dog-specific subscription box, such as BarkBox. Each monthly shipment comes with fun surprises for your pup, including toys and treats. You can also find assorted packs of toys on Amazon. Once you know which types of toys your pup likes best, you can stock up!
12. Treat Your Pup to DogTV
If your dog has grown accustomed to socializing with other people and pups, he’s probably feeling cooped up and lonely during lockdown. DogTV is a streaming service dedicated to entertainment, stimulation, and relaxation for canines. The best news? DogTV is currently offering a free 30-day trial to help keep your pooch content during quarantine. Simply click here and follow the super-easy sign-up process
13. Listen to Curated Music Together
Believe it or not, you can find canine-friendly music playlists on Spotify. Simply visit pets.byspotify.com and select your type of pet. You’ll be prompted to answer a few questions, including your preference for relaxed or energetic tunes. Choose whether your pooch is friendly or shy, and curious or apathetic. You can even add your pet’s name and photo. The site will then generate a playlist based on your selections, so you and your canine can have a dance party for two or a lazy, tune-filled afternoon. How cool is that?!
14. Don’t Ignore Health Concerns
It’s important to speak to your pet’s veterinarian if you have any concerns regarding your dog’s health during lockdown. Many vets are only seeing animals on an emergency basis, and in many cases, routine checkups are being postponed until stay-at-home orders are lifted. As an alternative to a traditional face-to-face visit, your pet’s vet may offer an appointment via phone or video chat.
15. Have Your Pup’s Preventative Medications Shipped to You
If you’re in need of preventative medications, ask your local veterinary office to ship them, or order from an online retailer. One great option is PetExpress, where you can purchase flea, tick, and heartworm prevention, along with other pet medications.
More Tips and Tricks from BreedAdvisor
For more information on giving your canine the happiest, healthiest life possible, check out our recently published blog post on this topic. We’ve also curated a list of 15 fun activities you and your pup can enjoy together.
Building Your Connection during Quarantine
Remember: Lockdown won’t last forever, and the bond you build with your dog now will carry over into life post-quarantine.
Staying home isn’t all bad. After all, we have the most loving, loyal companions to help ease the burden. As author M.K. Clinton once said, “The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.”
Becky Simmonds is a professional dog walker and part-time rescue worker. In her local community she's known as the 'dog whisperer'! Her innate ability to understand and communicate with dogs (even if they're not hers) is quite incredible! Becky's loyal companion Chip, a German Shorthaired Pointer accompanies the group on their daily adventures!