A Guide to Life with your Dog during QuarantineLiz Mallia
The world has been hit hard by COVID-19. These past few months have been difficult and frustrating. We’ve all had to adapt to lockdowns, quarantine, and social distancing. One bright side of having to stay home is that you can spend more time with your dog . . . but what happens if you’re in quarantine? Quarantine typically lasts around 14 days, but with a bored dog that time can stretch on endlessly. If you need to spend time in quarantine, we’ve put together some tips to help you and your dog make the best of it!
Is my dog at risk of infection?
Fortunately, there is absolutely no evidence that pets (including dogs) can catch COVID-19 so you don’t have to practise social distancing from your dog! Since the situation is still evolving, the authorities in your area may require animals to be tested as a precaution, but this really depends on where you live in the world.
There is a small chance that if someone coughed or sneezed over a dog, the dog could accidentally transmit the virus to another person, but this is very unlikely because the virus survives better on hard, non-moving surfaces such as glass and metal.
NOTE: although there were reports of an elderly dog testing “weakly” positive with COVID-19 in Hong Kong, the reason the dog tested positive was probably because it was around people who were shedding the virus. The dog showed no symptoms of disease; it died later on, most likely due to old age.
What to do if you are sick
If you are ill with COVID-19, try to limit contact with your dog: no petting, cuddling, or kissing. Focus on resting and caring for yourself; the sooner you get proper care, the sooner you can go back to caring for your pet. In the meantime, arrange for another person to feed and walk your dog. If you must interact with your pet, wear a face mask, and thoroughly wash your hands before and afterwards. You will need to take proper precautions to make sure that your dog’s carer does not get infected; consult your local health authorities, the WHO, or the CDC for advice.
You might not have the virus, but you should try to practise social distancing nonetheless. This means being prepared. Try to book any vaccinations or veterinary procedures that your pet needs before you go into self-isolation: most veterinary clinics are still open, albeit with altered hours or services.
Stock up on dog food and any medicine that your pet needs: supplies for two weeks should be sufficient. Many pet supply companies offer a delivery service, so you can stay home and order most of what you need. Don’t panic-buy every bag of dog food in site: plan ahead and think about what your dog will actually need. This should include medicines such as parasite preventatives, and perhaps some absorbent pads for urine/faeces.
If you have a garden or yard, then your dog will be able to relieve him/herself more frequently, but if you don’t, your dog’s only chance to urinate/defecate will be on your walks. Some dogs will be fine with this, but most won’t. Unfortunately, you are probably going to have to teach your dog to urinate/defecate inside.
Most dogs have been taught not to do their business inside, and will be very reluctant to do so. You can lay down absorbent pee pads (a thick layer of newspaper on top of a plastic rubbish bag will do in a pinch); dogs that used these pads as puppies may remember these as a place where they can pee or poop.
You can also pretend that you are about to go on a walk: pick up the lead and walk your dog over to the area where the pads are. You may need to repeat this several times until your dog is ready to urinate/defecate. If they are showing signs that they are ready to go, such as circling or squatting, walk them over the pads. Praise and reward them if they use the pad. If you repeat this and reward your dog every time, he/she will soon get the idea. You’ll need to clean up your dog’s toilet area to keep your home hygienic, clean, and odour-free.
Beat the Boredom
For your dog, the worst part of lockdown and self-isolation will be boredom. You should stay home as much as possible during this time, but fortunately even areas that are in lockdown allow people to walk their dogs twice daily. Typically shorts walks of around 10-15 minutes are permitted, depending on local regulations. Please do your best to cooperate with local rules.
If you have a private yard or garden, then you’re in luck! You can sit with your dog outside and play together. You can also walk your dog around the garden on a lead, to mimic going on a normal walk. If you just need a change of scene, you can hang up a sheet to make a canopy, put down a blanket, and hang out with your dog in the garden (this is great fun if you have children). You can also use this space to create little obstacle courses or jumps for your dog: your dog might not be an agility champion but they’ll probably enjoy the challenge!
If you live in a flat or don’t have a garden, you can still find ways to enrich your dog’s life. They are plenty of puzzle toys on the market, and you can also make a few; for example, cut a few holes in a plastic bottle, put a few treats in, and let your dog figure out how to get the treats out. Another idea is take three plastic cups, hide a treat under one, shuffle the cups, and see if your dog can find the treat.
You can also use this time to train your dog. Maybe there are a few commands that need refreshing, or perhaps you want to teach a few cute tricks. You’ve now got some time to work on training. Some dog trainers may offer their services online, and you might be able to do a session over Skype. You can also independently research training methods and tips, or collaborate with other dog-owning friends for ideas.
- American Veterinary Medicine Association: https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/covid-19
- Pawsocute: https://www.pawsocute.com/dogs/dog-puzzle-toys/
- Science Mag: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/03/quarantine-cat-disinfect-dog-latest-advice-about-coronavirus-and-your-pets
- University of Illinois – College of Veterinary Medicine: https://vetmed.illinois.edu/pet_column/coronavirus-pets/