These are challenging times. On top of the worries about COVID-19, you might have kids trying to e-learn while you’re balancing working from home and keeping your surroundings clean. Add to that a dog - and possibly a bored dog - and it can feel overwhelming. Many dogs need stimulation to stay happy and healthy and, quite frankly, to stay out of trouble. This is even truer for puppies, who need to expend their excess energy or it could spell trouble for open garbages and that limited supply of TP. Keeping your dog busy doesn’t have to mean reinventing the wheel, but it might take just a bit of creativity on the part of you and your family members. We share some ideas of how to keep your dog busy during this COVID-19 quarantine.
1. All Hail the King, Kong
If you have not yet heard of this pet creation - which is one part toy/one part treat - you’re welcome. Take that conference call. Help your child with homework. Crack that bottle of wine and make dinner. And it’s possible that your dog will still be playing with that Kong when you’re finished with all that, particularly if you fill the famously-red plastic toy with peanut butter (make sure it's Xylitol-free!).
2. Go For That Walk
This certainly isn’t the most creative option, as we see all the memes about people walking their dogs ad nauseam these days. And when it comes to that, you should plot out a route that will help you to ideally avoid other people while we are social distancing. The truth is, though, that walk will benefit you as much as your dog…even though you most likely let out a little internal groan just thinking about it. Getting some fresh air, momentarily away from the news and the stress of daily life is never a bad idea.
3. Never Underestimate the Power of the Tennis Ball
Dogs and balls are a match made in heaven. And when it comes to truly wearing them out, there is nary anything better than a 10-minute game of Fetch. Fill a muffin pan with tennis balls and get going, as you will reap the dog nap reward when all is said and done. Kong has a specific tennis ball made for dogs. Just be aware that you need to get a ball that's not too small for your dog's mouth or that it can be a hazard. And if your dog is a chewer, choose something other than the tennis ball, as the tough outer layer can wear away at dogs’ teeth.
Got rain? No problem. Got stairs? Even better! Take the game indoors. Throw the ball down the stairs to your dog and let him or her go nuts as the ball is tracked down. Just make sure to get anything breakable out of the way. Remember the old Brady Bunch adage: “Mom always said, ‘Don’t play ball in the house.’”
4. Sit Back and Let the Games Begin
As parents, you are well aware that you don’t have time to interact with your child all day long, no matter the age. That’s why so many toys are based on independent play, including those saucers for toddlers that allow them to bounce and giggle as they interact with shapes and other trinkets that make noise. Such things exist for dogs, too! Just search online for interactive dog toys and dog puzzles. You won’t be sorry.
5. Play Tug of War
You’ve likely played this whether you’ve wanted to or not, and hopefully not with your favorite pair of socks. But you’ve surely seen the look of sheer joy on your dog’s face, especially if they win the game. You can use something you don’t care about in your home or buy a toy that’s specifically made for it. And despite what you might think, we in the veterinary community can assure you that this does not cause aggression in dogs. In fact, some have posited that it helps to make dogs more obedient. This is particularly true if you’ve worked on dog behavior since your dog was a pup, including making sure you can get in your his or her mouth to retrieve things without getting bitten.
6. Teach Your Dog a New Trick or Tricks
You can’t teach an old dog a new trick? Nonsense. Whether you have a puppy or a dog, this can be super fun, especially if you get your kids in on the act. You can go for the easy trick, such as getting your dog to “shake” or give you “paw” when you give them a treat. Or you can aim a little higher by teaching your dog the name of his stuffed animals in order to have him retrieve them for you. Either way, there is little that can garner more pride in your pooch than watching him or her learn something new.
7. Netflix and Snuggle
Sometimes all your dog really wants is YOU. Who are we kidding? This is what your dog wants 24/7, but we know you have things to do. You should make sure, however, to carve out some time at the end of the day to just be still with your faithful friend, as this is what truly makes their hound hearts go pitter-pat.
Remember, your veterinarians are still open and offering curbside service, so if you have any questions beyond keeping your dog from the boredom blues, please contact us.