If you’re presently working from home, like millions of other dog owners, the success of this “new normal” – however long it lasts – will depend as much on you as on the personality of your particular pup.
Dogs are essentially creatures of habit. And while they may relish your unexpected availability – whether it’s to play with them, pet them or snuggle with them -- they may also suffer from separation anxiety once you return to work.
It’s vital then to promptly establish a routine by beginning and ending your work, taking breaks and having lunch at around the same time every day, adding games, training sessions or simply enjoying “companion time” together during those breaks and in the evening.
To keep your dog entertained, consider the following:
Have a treasure hunt by hiding some of your dog’s favorite treats in different locations or rooms and seeing how quickly he can find all of them.
Shower him with extra attention by spending time playing his favorite game, whether it’s catch, fetch or tug-o-war.
Make him his own “snuffle mat”. What’s that, you ask? A “snuffle mat” is an enrichment toy that encourages your dog to sniff and search out treats hidden throughout the mat. It’s ideal for those times when you’re answering emails or taking part in conference calls.
Build him a doggy den by creating a comfortable place for him to curl up nearby and either keep a proprietary eye on you while you work, play quietly on his own with some favorite toys or settle down for a restorative snooze.
Teach him a new trick or two.
As for those all-important walks. Physical and mental exercise is essential for both of you. If you’re healthy and exhibit no symptoms of the virus, you can walk your dog so that he’s able to relieve himself, but those walks must be short and you must remember to practice social distancing. Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds before and after each walk, and consider carrying a pocket-sized bottle of hand sanitizer with you. Keep your dog firmly on a leash, don’t be shy about asking people you may pass NOT to pet him, and please pick up after him! If yours is a multi-person household, each adult member should take turns walking him, while following the same safety protocols.
If, however, you’re not well and are living alone in self-isolation, you must NOT go outside at all. Ask a family member, friend or neighbor for help. For peace of mind, draw up a plan in advance as to who can be relied upon to walk and feed your dog – or even temporarily take over caring for him -- if you’re unable to do so.
Although there’s currently no evidence to suggest that dogs can either contract or pass on Covid-19, it’s still advisable for you to wash your hands before and after feeding, playing
with or petting your dog.
And yet, if ever there was a silver lining in this current cloud of uncertainty and fear, it’s your canine companion. Research has long proven that pets make people happier and healthier while reducing their stress levels and making them more productive. What better antidote then, to social alienation than the comforting presence of a furry friend who’s simply a paw away?
Article by Nomi Berger. Nomi is the bestselling author of seven novels, one work of non-fiction, two volumes of poetry, and hundreds of articles. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with her adopted Maltese, Mini, and has been writing as a volunteer for animal rescue groups in Canada and the U.S.A. since 2013.