Are you struggling with your dogs at the moment with all of the uncertainty that is going on in the world right now? With lockdown measures being put in place by Government we have had a few people ask us what they can do to keep their dogs entertained during lockdown.
This pandemic has left some dogs struggling with lack of routine, lots of change and potentially less physical exertion. It is a confusing time for pooches across the globe, so we want to make sure that you’re equipped with some things you can do to keep them entertained during lockdown.
Daily exercise is currently allowed and actually advised for people to stay mobile and look after your mental health during lockdown. So this is great, because it means that your dogs can still get some exercise. However, due to social distancing, the Government is advising that you should not let your dogs off the lead as most dogs do not have the recall skills to avoid bumping into other dogs and people on a walk.
A training line / long line for your dog is very handy to give them as much freedom as possible whilst still having control of them, should you come across other people or dogs on their walk.
If you’re not able to get one then don’t worry, there are other things that you can do to make walks as fun and interesting as possible for them.
If there are a few of you living in your household, take it in turns to walk your dog so that they get at least 2 walks per day. What I would suggest though is if there are more than 3 people in your household, try not to overdo it. Yes dogs LOVE their walks but if they aren’t used to having 3 hours of walking every day, this may be too much for them. (Physically for some but also mentally confusing and is another thing to add to their list of weird things going on that they don’t understand. You’re best to keep their walks to around 1-2 hours per day (unless you have a puppy, elderly dog or your dog has any other health conditions of course) and use other times during the day to engage with them in other ways.
Sniffing is intrinsically important in the doggie world and gives them lots of mental stimulation which is tiring work for them… So if you don’t already, allow your dogs plenty of time on their walks to sniff and explore. Even if this means you have to stop every 4 steps down the road!
Why not also try practicing their heal work. Incorporating this into their walks as well as plenty of sniffing is a great way to keep them mentally stimulated as well as benefiting you both (and us dog walkers) in the long run as you will be training them to walk better on the lead… If you haven’t had the time to put into training before, well, now is the time.
Should you be unlucky enough to show symptoms of and have to self-isolate due to Coronavirus, then maybe ask around your neighbours to see if they’re able to take your dog out for a walk (whilst making sure you keep to social distancing rules).
The following suggestions will include some kind of food reward (if your dog likes food) so a quick tip on being careful with the dog’s daily food consumption (Not letting them get fat in isolation)
TIP (this will not work if your dog is on a raw diet)
Measure out your dog’s daily food allowance in the morning (All meals). Divide that in half. Put one half in a Tupperware box or sandwich bag and with what’s left, share this between their two daily meals (morning and evening). You can then use the kibble that is left in the Tupperware box as ‘treats’.
I.e. Dog has 1 cup of kibble in the morning and 1 cup of kibble in the evening…. Dog NOW has 1/2 cup of kibble in the morning, and 1/2 cup in the evening and 1 cup of kibble is used for games and treats throughout the day.
You may be thinking, my dog isn’t going to like kibble as a treat – So alternate between giving them a really tasty treat and a piece of kibble, that way they aren’t going to know what they’re getting! And as long as the game or training session is fun and engaging for them, they’ll soon start to enjoy whatever reward you’re giving them!… Even if that’s just a ‘Good dog!’
There are lots of YouTube videos out there with all kinds of ideas of what to stuff a kong toy with for your dog, but one of the basics is soaking their kibble for a few hours and then stuffing that into the kong. You can add a few treats in there as a surprise or spread some dog friendly peanut butter to the outside and freeze it overnight. This can then be given to them during the day or even as a replacement of their food bowl at mealtimes. It will keep them entertained for a long time (as it is frozen and harder to get out) therefore keeping them calm when you need them to be.
Ok, this is the fun part. This is when you’re dog is really going to love you!
Games are a great way to keep your dog mentally AND physically stimulated during lockdown and also in your everyday lives!
You can buy a snuffle mat on Amazon or any pet store that you go to get your dogs food.
Hiding treats or kibble in a snuffle mat encourages your dog to use his nose to find the treats. This is a great way to entertain them for a significant period of time!
If you can’t get a hold on one of these, you can simply roll up some dog towels, maybe even throw some into a box / basket or even the dogs crate and hide the treats inside the towels, this will do the same job!
Sniffing is a natural instinct and dogs need to use their scent just as much as a puppy needs to chew so make sure your dog gets the opportunity to use it wherever possible.
Simply hiding treats around a room or the garden and telling your dog to find them will keep them entertained. Each time they find a treat, this will encourage them to keep sniffing to find more.
If you have a Jack Russel who is a serial digger for instance, maybe stick to playing this indoors, as it may encourage him to dig more if he thinks he will find treats in the garden! And we don’t want that do we.
Tug of war
Tug of war is a great game to play for you and your dog to both get some physical exercise. 5-10 minutes of this is all that’s needed to tire them out. And you can even practice their ‘leave it’ command once time is up. If your dog hasn’t ever played tug of war before then try this:
With a few treats in your pocket, place a rope or tug toy in front of your dog’s mouth and wait for them to mouth it or bite on it. Some dogs will start off by touching it with their nose, this is enough for them to get praise and a treat to begin with. We want to encourage the behaviour we want more of.
Try again, hold the toy in front of their mouth an wait for them to put their mouth around it. With a little bit of patience, they will likely take the toy and gently tug on it. When they do, praise and treat! … Now try again. Keep doing this and when the dog begins to tug, you can encourage it by making slight growling noises and encouraging with ‘good boy/girl’.
Make sure that once your dog knows the game, you allow them to sometimes ‘win’ the toy before coming back and playing it again with you. And sometimes ‘winning’ yourself and returning to play. This is what will make it a ‘game’ rather than ‘Mummy and Daddy chase me whilst I run away with the toy’, as much as this may seem to be cute, this can become a difficult problem to reverse… Just think all games must be two-ways. You should be having fun just as much as the dog and both winning equal amounts.
Place a treat under one cup and have 2 other cups with no treat under, get your dog to sit and wait whilst you show them which cup you put the treat under. Then, you want to mix them around and ask them “which cup?” Whichever cup they nose or paw first, lift the cup up to reveal if there is a treat or not. If they got it right, give them the treat. If they get it wrong, start at the beginning. Show them which cup the treat is under and mix them up again.
You can do this with ‘Which hand’ too – put a treat in one hand, get them to sniff both hands and wait for them to focus more on whichever hand they think the treat is in and reveal if they are right or not.
To get some more physical exercise in your dog’s day, why not try a bit of agility. You don’t have to be an expert and your dog certainly won’t be if they’ve never done anything like this before. But more than anything it is a bit of fun… Try not to get frustrated with your dog if he doesn’t do it correctly! You want to guide them around the obstacles but if they’ve never done this before, they are going to do it wrong time and time again.
Just look at the agility dogs at Crufts! Some of them have been doing it for years and still mess up!
The great thing about this is that you can use anything you want as obstacles! Maybe some plant pots from your garden for the dog to run around, some sticks stuck in the ground for them to weave around or placing a broom on top of two piles of books as a jump for them. If your kids have a hula hoop, you can teach your dog to jump through the hoop… just remember, again, BE PATIENT and just have fun!
Think of all those times you’ve asked your dog to ‘sit’ or ‘down’ and they just look at you as if to say ‘What do you want from me?!’ and you’ve wanted to try out a new trick but you haven’t found the time to do it yet, or to do it consistently!
Well here’s your time!
It’s important to remember that training sessions can be hard work for your dogs! It is a lot of brain stimulation and problem solving… and whilst most dogs love it, it can be very tiring for them so keep to short bursts of training especially whilst we’re in lockdown! 10-minute sessions is more than enough. You will likely see when your dog is ‘brain tired’ because they will start to lose focus, look away and start to get easily distracted.
Try perfecting their ‘sit’, getting them into a ‘down’ position and then (the hard part!)… getting them to stay there. Maybe teaching them to roll-over. There are lots and lots of YouTube videos that will teach you the steps in doing these but if you have any questions, let me know and I can help with how you can do this.
After a few intense training sessions throughout the day, as well as your dogs two walks, they are going to be ready for some well-deserved naps!
All in all guys, we want to keep routine, engage our dogs in mental and physical stimulation where possible and try to keep the changes to a minimum… not only for right now (during lockdown), but also to prevent any destructive behaviour or separation problems when we all have to go back to work.
Keep it fun, positive and engaging for your dog’s mental and physical well-being.
They need us now more than ever!