The Coronavirus (or Covid-19 virus as it is now been talked about as), could leave us dog owners wondering how to cope with our dogs if we need to self-isolate.

“But I need to walk the dog…..”

Well not really…

It’s a common myth that people think that their dog must be walked everyday. I’m not sure why many people don’t know this, but you don’t need to walk the dog every day. Fact…. Yes, ask your vet!

Vets and dog trainers regularly recommend dogs to be not walked for a variety of reasons. Health, recovery, training needs, managing anxiety are just a few of the reasons. Self-isolation for Coronavirus has just been added to that list.

Of course your dog needs regular exercise, but like us humans, a couple of weeks off is not going to affect their fitness longer term. But did you know that when walking your dog, the actual exercise only counts for part of the important stimulation a dog gets from a walk. The sniffing, watching, chasing all count for an important part of the walk. And all of this you can achieve without walking your dog and mentally tire them out.

So now you are relaxing about days off from walking the dog, read on to understand how it can really help. I share some different ways to keep your dog happy and tired and mentally stimulated. These are useful not only for any self-isolation you may be required to do with the threat of Coronavirus, but also for those days when you cannot walk your dog. You can stop feeling guilty about not taking the dog out after reading this!

But be warned.. you have to do something!

This is the thing most people miss out on with their dogs… the mental exercise. You can tire your dog in 10-15 minutes, the same way you can tire them physically for over an hour. Don’t believe me? Try these…

Lickimat fun
  • Put away their food bowl and instead feed from an interactive toy. Lickimats are the perfect idea to do this, along with treat toys where you can add the food into sections. Keeps the busy and feeds them at the same time. If you want to do different things at each meal, you can scatter feed your dog’s dinner portion over the garden or hide small handfuls of food around the house for them to seek out and find.
  • If you have the energy then playing with your dog is another great way to tire them out and keep them happy. Games of tug with appropriate tug toys are a great game that tires in small time bursts. That may be all you have the energy for but it will make a huge difference to your dog.
  • If your dog likes to play fetch then this is also a great short game (as you don’t want to over stimulate your dog playing fetch for too long). When finishing this game remember to play something calmer to end their period of high stimulation and calm their body back down. We play find the fetch toy by kneeling over the toy so our dog tries to locate it.
  • Teach an old dog new tricks…. Yes teaching you dog small new tricks can help with their stimulation AND help you train them to a higher level. Just 5 minutes a day working on a trick or skill can help develop your dog and tire them out. This is also quite manageable if you are feeling unwell. Sit and wait, give paw, touch my hand on command, anything as simple as these can be a focus for you and your dog whilst mentally stimulating at the same time.

Play and exercise helps

The play and exercise above will also help promote more calm in your dog than chaos. I am sure some of you are reading this (yes Dad you… with your nutty hyperactive Border Collie!) thinking my dog won’t cope without a walk as they must be walked every day for miles! At least an hour otherwise they don’t settle….

Well give some if not all the above a go. On talking yesterday with a local dog trainer here in Warrington, she said that longer walks can tire them physically but often not mentally so can create more chaos and over stimulation in dogs.

Dogs need to go to the toilet, and many can do this in the garden. But if you have one that needs to go for a walk to do this. Try walking around the garden on a lead and if that really doesn’t work, take them outside. But consider doing this at quiet times, late at night for example. But once they’ve been and done their business, bring them back as having done other stimulation exercises during the day they should still settle. This will allow you to recover and maintain the self-isolation required.

Let me know how you get on if you have to self-isolate and share any other tips for other below.