Luvk9s Dog Training

Pandemic Pointers for Pups and their People

Confirmed cases of canines diagnosed with a coronavirus have dog owners understandably concerned.

On April 28, the American Kennel Association noted that based on current information, “dogs can contract coronaviruses, most commonly the canine respiratory coronavirus. This specific novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is not believed to be a health threat to dogs, but dogs can test positive for the virus.”

The World Organisation for Animal Health states that “the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered low” and that to date, “there is no evidence that companion animals play a significant role in spreading the disease.”

But as a concerned pet parent, what can you do to keep your dog safe?

Keep your dog safe

The Centers for Disease Control makes the following suggestions:

  • Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
  • Practice proper social distancing (six feet) while walking your dog.
  • Avoid dog parks or public places where large numbers of people and dogs gather.
  • Practice basic hygiene and wash your hands before and after contact with any animal.
  • If you tested positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed, have another family member take care of your dog. If this isn’t possible, wear a mask and wash your hands before and after every intera

Socialize your dog

How can you socialize your puppy or continue socializing your adult dog if you are quarantining at home and practicing social distancing when you are out?

The socialization process uses classical conditioning to teach our dogs that “stuff” isn’t scary. By pairing sightings of people and dogs with food, for example, dogs learn when a human or dog appears, good things happen! It is best to start this process from a distance and gradually move closer over time.

Social distancing, in this case, is actually a good thing. Be creative; there are many ways to start or continue socializing your dog.

  • Sit on your front porch, or on a bench near the grocery, hardware or drug store. When a human comes into view and your dog notices, immediately start feeding your dog kibble or treats; when the person disappears, the feeding stops.
  • Take your dog with you when you go through a drive-through to pick up food to go.
  • On a walk, have lots of treats (or kibble) handy and easy to get to. As somebody comes into view, hold the leash in your left hand and feed treats with your right. As the person disappears, the treats stop.
  • Drive to your veterinarian’s office, park in the back of the lot and stay in your car. As people arrive with their dogs, start treating your dog. When the owners and dogs are inside, stop treating. 

Prevent separation anxiety

Most of us are not ordinarily home 24/7; that has changed with Georgian’s “sheltering in place.”  Our dogs, who were used to being left alone from time to time are now getting used to us being home all the time.

Trainers and behaviorists are concerned that once things return to normal, some dogs may develop separation anxiety.

To keep this from happening, trainers are suggesting that you purposely leave your dog alone for varied periods of time every day.

Leave your dog at home while the entire family takes a short walk. While you make a run to the post office or grocery store, have remaining family members go into their rooms or outside for a few minutes. Practicing leaving your dog home alone now can prevent issues in the future.

Boredom prevention with enrichment activities

The saying that a tired dog is a good dog holds true; most of us realize dogs need physical exercise. But don’t forget that tiring your dog mentally with enrichment activities is also highly effective.

There are numerous enrichment toys and games available for purchase. But if you are a bored do-it-yourselfer, here are a few enrichment toys that you can make at home. It’s win-win; you have a fun project to do which will result in your dog having a great activity to do.

  • Do you have an empty ICE drink plastic bottle at home? Punch six to eight ½” holes into the bottle. Fill the bottle with a few Bil-Jac size treats or kibble. Place on the ground; your dog will smell the treats inside and start pushing the bottle around to try to get the treats to fall out through the holes.
  • Start collecting empty toilet paper rolls. Once you have a dozen or so, stand them up in a box. Drop treats or kibble randomly into some of the rolls. Place the box on the ground and let your dog figure out how to get the treats out of the rolls.
  • If you’ve got a muffin tin, drop a treat into each cup and cover with a tennis ball. Place on the ground and let the fun begin! Your dog will have to figure out how to remove the tennis ball to get to the treats.
  • It is quite easy to create a dog version of the shell game. Simply punch a few holes into the bottom of three plastic cups. Place a smelly treat under one of the cups, move the cups around and see if your dog can figure out which cup the treat is under.

Be safe and well. Happy training!