The need to be confined to one’s house during the state of alarm caused by the coronavirus Covid 19 also affects the physical and mental health of our pets, especially dogs. A dog’s well-being depends on three fundamental aspects, which are physical exercise, exploring the surroundings and social interaction. All three can be affected by the exceptional situation we are going through, as a result leading to a drastic reduction in physical exercise, the freedom of exploration – especially through their sense of smell – and a lack of contact with people and other dogs. For all these reasons we propose a series of activities which anybody can do at home in order to stimulate and maintain your dog’s well-being while in our country the proclamation of the state of alarm is in effect.
1. Play every day with your pet
Playing is a great way to make sure your dogs get physical exercise. The Foundation recommends playing with them at least twice a day during between 15 and 20 minutes each time. This way the animal keeps fit, while it is also a way of interacting with them.
The type of game can be adapted to the space you have at your disposal. The most well-known activity is throwing a ball or other toy which they then have to retrieve, but there are other and equally stimulating alternatives that require less space, for example playing hide and seek the food: hide chunks of fodder or other goodies in various places inside a room, without the animal seeing you, and then encourage them to go looking.
2. Use the situation to work on their education and training
Now that we are spending more time with our pets in the house, this is the ideal moment to improve their education and teach them instructions using positive training. This will strengthen your relationship and is a process the whole family can partake in, even the children. It will also bring lots of benefits to the way the family unit is living together: it can avoid the stress related with the confinement and improve adaptation.
Positive training is based in the use of reinforcements such as food, games or strokes to teach our pets what they can and cannot do, thereby setting limits. This system is based in reinforcing the right behaviour of the animal and avoiding punishment. In other words, don’t wait until the dog makes a mistake so that you can correct it, but focus your efforts on encouraging the right behaviour.
3. Control its diet and stimulate it with special food bowls
If the physical exercise the animal usually gets is reduced these days, you should pay special attention to its alimentation to make sure your dog doesn’t gain weight. In this sense, you can turn the feeding hour into a game to encourage the animal. If you do not possess an “anti-scoffing” food bowl, there are two easy ways to make one at home:
- Take the carton cylinder of a kitchen paper roll and pinch various holes in it. Fill it up with chunks of fodder and close off both extremes. This way we stimulate the animal mentally to try and get its food and to swallow in smaller bits, which will improve its digestion.
- Put a cloth in a box and hide chunks of fodder between its creases which the dog then will have to find.
Finally, remember we should be extra patient with our pets these days. They cannot understand what is happening and with their routines upset they can be more nervous than usual in certain moments.