Getting ourselves through months of lockdowns and social distancing is a challenge in and of itself and making sure that our furry friends are well taken care of through the pandemic has a unique set of challenges – but there is lots of things we can do to help make sure we all make it to the other side better then ever.
Getting a dog during COVID is a great idea, and something that appears to be on the rise. It is a big commitment and is going to require your time, patience, and energy to train and teach your dog. … but when else are you going to have a government mandate to stay home with your pup?
My partner and I have wanted to get a dog for years but knew it was not a responsible decision with our lifestyle pre COVID lifestyle. We were waiting for an opportunity or change (we move cities or one of us start working from home). COVID has a LOT of downsides, but one silver lining has been allowing us to adopt our pooch (and finishing Netflix). We are both fortunate enough to be working from home now and being able to spend so much time training our dog has been great, but we have also had to work hard (and continue to work hard) to address a lot of things that could be potential issues in the future when COVID finally ends.
Our boy Stetson needed a new home – he is a 1.5 years old, long haired silver dapple dachshund. He had spent the first part of his life with a breeder and always had lots of other dogs around him. He had never been walked on a leash and was not house trained. We got him in the early fall of ’20 and have learned quite a bit firsthand about training a dog through a pandemic. Whether you are a new dog owner navigating their way through the training or a seasoned vet with a well-trained companion, I hope these tips and tricks will help you and your pup through the end of the pandemic.
This might seem odd since you are already home and it defeats the purpose of the getting a dog while you are working from home, but trust me, invest in a high-quality doggy daycare/dog walker to socialize your dog. Being able to socialize with other dogs is important and unless there are already dogs in your home, they might not get the chance until the pandemic is over. Things to look for in a doggy daycare include:
- How do the staff interact with the dogs (look for positive reinforcement strategies - is a treat pouch handy)?
- Is the space well maintained?
- Does the number of dogs allowed in the space seem reasonable?
- Do the staff seem knowledgeable and able to report any issues your dog might have had during the day?
It is important for your dog to learn that there are lots of people in this world (with their own unique smells) and there is no need to be afraid of them (and/or protect their humans from them) – the best case here is that your dog does not bark at every stranger on the street. Taking opportunities to show off your dog to strangers while out for a walk or chatting with people at the dog park is a great way to address this concern, as well as give you the bonus opportunity to social distance socialize with someone not through a screen.
When we can have small social bubbles, choose strategically. Your bubble is also your dog’s bubble so ideally if your friends are ok with having dogs in their home, or if they have friendly dogs, then it will help you enjoy time with them and your dog. It also allows your dog to become familiar with a larger variety of homes, smells, and humans. It is also important to have humans and other dogs over to your house – it is important for your dog to understand that different people and dogs are allowed in your home.
Quality Time & Attention
Resist the urge to cuddle with them all day! This is difficult – believe me, I get it, but your dog must be comfortable being alone and separated from you. In the long term, you will both be happier if you put in the effort now. It is encouraged to spend the evening cuddling on the couch with your dog trying to find the end of Netflix. But maybe during the day, while you are on work calls, they do not have to be on your lap.
Dogs are pack animals and being alone does not necessarily come naturally. It is something we must work hard to teach the confidence needed to handle. The reality is, we are not always going to be able to spend 24/7 with our dogs – eventually we will have to leave them home for a few hours, so it is important that we make efforts now to normalize these types of events in the future. Work to spend time apart from your dog. This can include having them in a different room while you work, having a friend come by and take them for a walk without you, and/or incrementally leaving them home alone while you go for a walk. This needs to be a progressive approach, and you can use your laptop or camera or phone to record them while you are gone to see how they manage while you are out. Your goal here is to gradually build trust with them, so they know that you are always going to come home to them.
Plan in advance
In some pandemic situations it might be weeks until you make another in-person purchase at the pet store. Meanwhile, your dog toys and treats might seem to expire their useful lifespan much sooner. Ideally, we should all be limiting our trips to the store, so if you would like to be able to give your dog variety, you will have to make sure you plan for it. Buying in bulk and then hiding things from your dog AND yourself will allow you to introduce new treats/toys in between your shopping outings and keep time at home interesting.
COVID sucks. And I get that with fewer pleasures in our lives we want things to be easier. But resist the urge to fill up a cart on Amazon, and instead call up a local company and ask if they do curbside pickup. It will be in all our best interests if the boutique pet stores are still there when things are back to normal. There are few better feelings than when a local store starts to recognize your dog and their preferences and personality quirks. They can be very knowledgeable and willing to share their expertise through advice or recommendations. It is also a great excuse for you to explore your neighbourhood/city.
Establishing a good routine is always recommended for new dogs – so that goes without saying. But doing this can also help you minimize your personal exposure. By doing the same things each day at similar times, we are minimizing the variety of possible points of contact we would each have. This might not be for everyone (some of us live for the spontaneity) but for those of us that can manage, there is a benefit.
Being able to spend time by themselves is important for your dog and you can help facilitate some of this by tapping into your crafty side. There are puzzle games you can get that hide a treat and your dog must figure out how to release it. But you can also make your own toys or puzzles, here is a great article to help get you started.
A tired dog is a good dog, and a good dog sleeps through the night!! Making sure your dog gets lots of exercise is always important and making sure you do is also equally important. It is easy to sit at our home offices all day without getting outside – this is not good for your mental or physical health. Regular walks will help keep you and your dog in better spirits through the end of COVID.
BONUS: Good Diet
This helps keep energy levels up and the body feeling great. Lots of dark leafy greens for you, and BoneOlio for your pup. It is a great way to boost the nutrients your dog is getting, keeping them happy, healthy and ready to keep up with you!
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and we can all finally start to imagine our world returning to normal. That world should include a new furry family member you have been thinking about for months! These 10+1 tips are what we learned during our COVID new dog experience. We hope you find some useful information in them and let us know what you have learned about getting a new dog during COVID.