For any loving dog owner, making sure they’re happy and healthy is so important.
Right now though, so many things we usually enjoy with them and may have taken for granted are off limits.
Going to training classes, daycare or group walks.
Enjoying playing with other dogs in the park while we chat to their owners.
Going to the pub or a dog friendly cafe where they can sniff other dogs and enjoy being fussed over.
While we’re locked down we can’t enjoy these simple things.
I don’t know how your dog is coping but I feel like Patch is getting fed up.
He wants to sniff other dogs and play, but when we see owners quite rightly we have to keep a two metre distance to stay safe.
He LOVES the pub and has been standing by the door of our local, The Brandling Villa, where he normally gets so much fuss and his own special doggy meals, wanting to go in.
Patch doesn’t understand that they’re shut.
On top of the lockdown safety measures, he also had an operation to remove a cyst from his chest – it’s nothing to worry about – so had to rest for the stitches to heal.
That was on March 10th and he’s only able to run around properly now.
So he’s full of energy, a little unsettled and confused about why we’re at home all the time and not taking him out as much.
We’re trying to do our best, making treasure hunts, scatter feeding in the garden and keeping him entertained.
The thing he seems to struggle with the most is not being able to greet other dogs.
When we first adopted him, he would get over-excited and pull and sometimes bark.
This has started happening again, so we are going back to the lessons we learned training with Sue McCabe (You can read the series here) to help him cope.
I know other dogs will be feeling the same – out of sorts – and owners want to keep them happy during the Coronavirus lockdown
My friend Suzanne says her dog Sparky (below with Patch) who is usually settled has become quite high maintenance.
He can’t understand why his dad – Suzanne’s husband David – is at home and isn’t taking him for walks as he might on the weekend.
Because I run a free Facebook group for pet professionals, I’ve seen of people offering different solutions which I’ll share at the end of this post.
I spoke to Diane Kasperowicz, a dog trainer and behaviourist and author of Beyond the Bowl, for her tips on keeping dogs healthy
Diane is a qualified and accredited dog trainer and behaviour consultant covering SW London and Surrey.
Diane was selected by the KONG company to be their female UK Ambassador and she regularly gives presentations on enrichment.
Diane is also a qualified agility instructor, a Real Dog Yoga Instructor, a UK Sniffer Dogs Silver Level instructor and a Mantrailing Instructor.
She is passionate about all things dog especially senior dogs and focuses on mind, body and well being of our canine companions, adopting a more ‘holistic’ circle of care for both dogs and their humans.
Do you think self isolation could lead to dogs putting on weight?
“Self isolation should not contribute to your dog gaining any weight. If you can get your dog out for exercise then that will help.
“If you do fall ill, you may need to rely on friends or professionals if you can’t get out.
“There is much you can do to give your dog extra mental stimulation while at home.
“Often simple training sessions or scatter feeding can help exercise brain cells and taps into their natural foraging, seeking system and can improve cognition especially in older dogs.”
How can owners help them?
“Start by familiarising yourself with the canine body score to help you keep an eye on your dogs weight.
“Rather than looking at weight in terms of lbs and kg, how does your dog ‘look’?
- Can you feel the ribs clearly without a covering of fat? If you form a fist with your hand and run the fingers of your other hand over your knuckles, that’s the kind of feeling you should feel when you feel your dogs ribs. You should be able to feel the bones of the ribs.
- When you look down over your dog whilst it is standing, can you visibly see a girdle type shape around the waist? the waist should tuck in below the rib cage.
- With your dog in a standing position, does your dog have a nice ‘up lift’ of the stomach going into the pelvis area. it shouldn’t be drooping down.
“Take a look at this graphic from Healthy Pet Club which illustrates how your dog should look.
“Two common mistakes is to feed for the current weight of the dog when in reality owners need to consider what their dog’s ideal weight should be and feed an appropriate amount for the ideal weight.
“This should take into account any treats or additional food items like chews and bones.
“I also see people ‘guessing’ the amount and using cups or their hands as a scoop.
“Always use a pair of scales and accurately measure your dog’s food – this ensures you are feeding the correct amount.”
Should they reduce portion sizes/snacks?
“I think be mindful of it. Adding in mental stimulation and training games can mean you are increasing their calorific intake so just remove some of their daily portion of food.
“When we are adapting to lifestyle changes, we can often feel sorry for our dogs so it’s important to keep a food diary so you can adjust your dog’s daily portions accordingly.”
Do you have advice on how to ensure dogs get exercise they need?
“With reduced walks for some dogs, we can feel we are not giving our dogs enough exercise.
“Dogs live in a world of scent and giving your dog more sniffing opportunities will not only exhaust their brain but also use the muscles in the body.
“It’s a big misconception that dogs need to be running around off lead for at least an hour every day.
“I focus on slowing things down with most owners. Give your dog time to sniff on walks, one day a week allow your dog to choose where they want to go.
“These ‘sniffaris’ can be a perfect opportunity to spend quality time with your dog and something you do ‘together.’
“Twenty minutes of scentwork will be more beneficial than an hours running around in the park.
“In these times of self isolation, it’s a great time to increase your social bonding with your dog.“
Can you tell me about your book Beyond the Bowl and what people can learn?
“Yes, the book is all about feeding your dog a healthy, balanced diet and looks at different ways to add enrichment through using your dogs daily meals.
“There are over 50 KONG recipes as well as ideas of other games you can play such as our ‘picnic for 2.’
“We also have a Facebook group with over 35K members and share daily exercises and ideas to add more mental stimulation into your dogs day.
Diane’s book is available on Amazon: Beyond the Bowl *
Join her group for tips on feeding and enrichment: Beyond the Bowl Facebook Group
Find out more about Diane on her website: www.superhounds.co.uk/
If you’re concerned about how your dog will cope there are lots of free resources and challenges taking place online right now that you can get involved with.
Training and enrichment
We’ve written about the following activities you can try at home if you’d like to take a look.
Plus there are lots of live challenge and activities happening locally that you can join in with.
Claire Lawrence who runs High Peak Dog Services in Derbyshire has a Coping With Coronavirus Challenge taking place.
Find out more here: www.highpeakdogservices.co.uk/
Suzanne Gould from Edinburg Holistic Dogs has set up the Edinburgh Dog Owners Survival Group.
Alex Graves from Rove Pets in Essex has come up with nine enrichment games to exercise your dog’s mind.
Read her tips here: www.rovepets.com
Caroline Wilkinson from Barket Place is running free online masterclasses and interviewing experts about all kinds of fascinating things.
Take a look at her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/barketplace/
Sarah Robinson from Frank and Jellys Dog Product Reviews has free exercise classes for dogs and owners starting tomorrow, Monday March 30th (You can catch the replays if reading in the future)
Join in here: www.facebook.com/dogproductreviews/
Tam Wilson from Born 2 Run pet care in Dipton, Stanley, has set up a Boredom Busters Facebook Group.
Join in here: Born 2 Run Boredom Busters
Rikki Sullivan from Poochville in London is doing Doggy Diaries with short videos showing how to keep dogs entertained at home.
Check them out here: www.poochville.co.uk/
For senior dogs, Joe Nutkins from Dog Training for Essex and Suffolk has a Senior Dogs fun training class you can do online.
Join in on Facebook: www.facebook.com/dogtrainingforessexandsuffolk
The Canine Arthritis Managment website is also a fantastic resource for owners of dogs of all ages.
Learn more: caninearthritis.co.uk/
Anna Pollard from In the Dog House in Leicester has set up a group with tips on grooming – she’s running a home grooming challenge on March 30th.
Join Anna’s group: In The Dog House grooming challenge
Stephanie Zickmann from Scrub a Dug Dug in Kilmarnonck has a free group with online tutorials, print-out guides and products to help you groom at home.
Learn more: Scrub a Dug Dug group
If you have a puppy and are worried on missing out on classes, support is available online.
Sue McCabe from Muttamorphosis in Newcastle who helped us train Patch has an online puppy programme you can take part in.
Find out more here: www.muttamorphosis.co.uk/
Karen Boyce from Beastly Thoughts dog training in Shropshire also has a six week puppy training programme online.
Learn more: www.beastlythoughts.co.uk
Kirsty Skeates who runs Fit for Dogs in Hull is providing online support for dogs who aren’t able to go to sessions which is just amazing.
Find out what you can do from home: www.fit4dogsuk.com/online-support
What to do if you fall ill
Have you nominated someone who can care for your pet?
If you live alone, is there a friend or family member nearby?
If not, a local pet sitter? Can you get in touch with them to prepare in case you need help?
Should you need to hand over your pet to a friend or pet professional, here are a few essentials you’ll need to prepare:
Food – have enough for at least two weeks and treats.
Bedding – consider a plastic bed with blankets in to prevent spread of infection. Have them washed and bagged up ready.
Toys – help your pet feel at home with toys and games that are familiar.
Routine – write down your pet’s regular routine, meal and treat times, when they need to go to the loo, how often they walk, any habits or quirks.
Vet details – give the person the number of your vet, plus the name that is on your dog’s records so if they need treatment they can access their records.
There’s also telemedicine for pets where you can speak to a vet from your phone, tablet or computer from sites like www.pawsquad.com/
Collar tags – pet professionals will have these already with their details on. If handing over to a friend you may need to make a makeshift one with their details on in case they are lost.
Microchip company details – give the person access to your account so they can add their number as the contact.
This checklist runs through the essentials – please feel free to share.