Dogs are remarkably resilient animals, surprising us with their fight through incredibly tough circumstances over and over again. But dogs are also social creatures that need the outdoors to thrive. Despite being able to lean on you for social support, staying at home will not be an easy pill to swallow for most of them.
How to Challenge Your Dog at Home and Keep it Calm
The outdoors is calling for long walks, countless sniffs, hanging around other canine friends, and, yes, for something as ubiquitous and taken for granted under normal circumstances – going potty. Moreover, when you are “stranded” at home, you may become more anxious and/or depressed as an owner and affect the dog’s wellbeing, as well.
For now, the full liberty to move around hasn’t been restricted but the #stayathome policy is inevitably changing one of the most wonderful aspects of being a dog owner: freely exploring the neighborhood with your dog as you meet with others who like to share the same experience.
So, what can you do to make it easier for both of you to go through days, weeks, maybe even months (we don’t know) of not being able to get out as you please?
1. Stay assertive and calm.
Easier said than done, especially if we consider the good old adage: “Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being able to calm down”.
However, your dog needs your sanity and assertive manner. Therefore, do all that you can to mentally adapt to the new circumstances and accept that your life for now just cannot go on as it used to be.
Acceptance of human vulnerability and gratitude for the time in solitude help establish a flexible mindset that will serve you well during self-isolation.
Try not to project fears in the future or make assumptions about what will happen next. Listen to your gut about how to best cope with the situation. Then, think of the practical stuff for your dog.
2. Create a dog supply list.
Food and medicine top the list, of course.
Purchase your kibble, get flea, tick, and worms pills from the vet. It is not easy to plan for a different species when we are in times like this, but with a little careful consideration, this time may be the time to bond with your dog like you never did before.
Think of anything you may need for reshaping your dog’s life from the one with lots of outdoor activity to staying within four walls for long periods.
Consider point number 3 below as you may need to add dog diapers to your list.
3. Organize a home potty area.
Now we come to something that can be a serious problem for some dog owners. If you live in a house with a small yard, there is an easy solution: you can just open the back door and let your dog do its business at the corner of the yard.
But what about people who live in apartments and need to go out several times a day for the dog’s potty?
If you are unable to go out whenever you like because of restrictions, you might consider doing the following arrangements:
- Dogs like going potty in an area that they’ve used before. In the worst-case scenario, if you are unable to go outside at all, you need to recreate the experience as close as possible to the real thing.
- Behave like you are doing the usual walk. Get your walking shoes and clothes on and grab the leash.
- Assign an area in your house that will serve as the potty area – think the hall, under the stairs, the garage, the attic, the toilet, even the corner of a room if nothing else works.
- Go back to old times and recollect potty training tips, such as using a dog diaper to mark the area or setting a real grass patch or an artificial dog potty turf. Some of them include a bottom drawer tray that is easy to clean and will help your dog do its thing when inside.
Be patient, it may not be easy at first, but it will work out after a few days.
4. Create at-home physical activity
In line with the “A tired dog is a good dog”, take care to provide enough physical activity now that your dog cannot go for long walks or run in parks.
Examples of Home Activities for Dogs
One of the best ways to engage anxious stay-at-home dogs, and include children, too, is to organize an at-home agility training or a secret hunt maze.
- Use dining room chairs to set a tunnel covered with a tablecloth or linen.
- Children love tents and dogs love safety areas: the final goal could be them arriving in the cozy, safe area of an improvised tent.
- Get an old tire or a hula-hoop to use it as a jumping hoop.
- Use plastic plates or Tupperware to replace cones for the zig-zag walk.
Naturally, it would be ideal if you could do this in a yard, but if you can’t, remove all furniture that could pose the risk of the dog (less likely) or kids (more likely) hurting themselves.
Home Equipment and Tools to Keep Your Dog Entertained
Ropes, duct tape, elastic string, a tape measure, scissors, glue are among the other equipment you will need.
Get creative – now is the time to recycle unused stuff you hoard in case you need it – great, you need it now, make the most of it.
5. Go virtually social.
Most of us would agree that we never have enough of watching dogs and cats being cute, crazy, funny, loving, confused, guilty, nurturing, smart or hardworking on the Internet. Hence, maybe now is the perfect moment to open an Instagram account or a Youtube channel and share more about our precious dog.
Sharing your coping strategies could help others and build connections you never expected, and even build a business! It has never been easier to do that and hopefully will benefit your life of a grounded dog owner.
Stay strong. The times are tough but your dog will love you nonetheless. Love them back by helping them adapt in return!