Keeping your dog occupied during a quarantine is no easy task, especially if they’re the active kind that’s used to plenty of daily walks. But with a little bit of ingenuity, a dash of patience, and plenty of creative thinking, there’s no shortage of fun and games to be had without ever stepping outside the front door.
Make the Most of Resources
Unless you managed to buy up half the store before you went into isolation, there’s a good chance you’re currently making the most of online shopping. If so, you’ve probably got a good stack of boxes by now from all the deliveries. If they’re currently sitting by the door doing nothing, put them to good use by making a game out of them. Pop some little treats in a few, before hiding them in the pile. Your dog will have plenty of fun tracking them down.
Tug of War
If they’re not able to go for the walks they’re used to, finding ways of giving your dog an outlet for all that pent-up energy is going to be crucial if you want to save both your sanity and theirs. A game of tug of war could be just the ticket. As well as being a great game for them, it can also help strengthen the relationship between you… not to mention giving them some much needed mental and physical stimulation. If you’ve heard rumors that tug of war can increase aggression in dogs, don’t worry: provided you establish proper boundaries, it’ll do no such thing. “There was a time when tug games were thought to cause aggression and dominance in dogs,” Dr. Mary Burch, a certified animal behaviorist and director of the AKC Family Dog Program says. “The current thinking is that if tug-of-war and similar games are managed properly, dogs don’t become aggressive. If, for example, the dog did snap at the owner’s hand while playing, this is not as much a result of tug-of-war as it is an owner who did not effectively set boundaries and teach the dog the rules of the game.”
Teach Some Tricks
If you’re in quarantine, the one thing you’ll have plenty of is time on your hands. So why not put it to good use and tick a few of those things you’ve been meaning to do but have never quite got around to off your to-do list. Such as teaching your dog some tricks. As well as offering your dog a way of channeling some of that physical and mental pent-up energy, it can also be a great bonding experience… not to mention give you something to do with all your free time. The list of things you can teach your pet is endless, but the key is not to overwhelm them with too many new things to learn all at once. Master one trick before moving onto the next, making sure to revisit the previous trick enough times that they don’t forget it. Try drawing up a list of all the tricks you’d like to master while in quarantine, and then tick each one off as you go along. To keep on track, create a few “milestone moments” on the list and reward both yourself and your dog with a little treat once you reach it.
If you’re not sure where to start, a few of the easiest tricks include:
- Bark on cue (teach them to “speak” on command).
- Fetch it (teach them to fetch a ball before bringing it back and dropping it a foot or so away from your feet).
- Find it (take a sock or similar item, give them a good old sniff, then hide it away somewhere in a different room. On your command, get them to sniff it out. If your pet’s driven more by their belly than their nose, substitute the sock for a treat).
- Get your ______. (Once you teach them the basic ‘get your’ command, apply it to blankets, bowls, toys, leashes, and anything else they think of as theirs).
- High Five (no explanation needed here!).
- Jump (this is a great one to teach if you have a Hola hoop. Teaching them to jump through will not only give them something to think about, it’ll also be great for their agility).
- Kennel (if they have a crate, teach them to go to it on command and to stay there until you issue a ‘release’ command.
- Kiss (teach them to ‘kiss’ the back of your hand or cheek when you point to it).
- Shake hand (if you want to show everyone how much your dog’s manners have improved while in quarantine, this is an excellent way of doing it).
Once you’ve mastered the basics, take a look online for some inspiration on what to teach them next – sites such as Top Dog Tips have a wealth of information and new ideas to try.
Bring in the Supplies
If you and your dog are going to be spending the next few weeks with only each other for company, you’re going to want to bring in plenty of supplies, and the sooner the better. If you’ve not yet gone into quarantine, it’s worth doing as One Woof Day Care suggests and getting a couple of month’s worth of tick, flea and heartworm medication to make sure you don’t run out of vitals before you’re out of the danger period. Bring in enough of your pet’s favorite food (although it may be worth considering switching to a lower calorie formula considering they probably won’t be getting much in the way of exercise), along with enough treats for all those new games and tricks you’ll be learning together.
Lastly, stock up on plenty of interactive games that will keep your pet stimulated during those times you can’t do it yourself. This is especially important if you’ll be working at home – unless you constantly want your dog begging for attention while you’re busy with spreadsheets, it’s crucial to find a way of keeping them busy and happy without your constant involvement.