The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted lives all over the world. In the U.S., most states are under some kind of lockdown or "stay at home" order, limiting interaction between people. While that kind of social distancing is necessary to get the spread of the virus under control, it can also increase the risk of people experiencing loneliness. Because loneliness can cause potential health issues like increased stress, cardiovascular disease, and even altered brain function, people need to have a connection of some kind.
Thankfully, that's where your four-legged friend can make a big difference. One study performed by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association found that 74% of people with dogs considered their pooch to be a member of the family or a close friend.
Having a dog with you at home during these uncertain times can improve your mental and emotional health, but what can you do together every day aside from your routine walks? Let's look at a few ways you can ward off boredom with your furry friend while you're both in isolation.
Keep a Routine
Dogs can get cabin fever too. While your pup might be happy you're home more (especially if they struggle with separation anxiety when you're gone), they're probably not going to be content to lie around all day with no physical or mental stimulation.
Unfortunately, many doggy daycares and even dog parks are closed because of Coronavirus, and many campgrounds are also closed to promote social distancing. But there's no reason you can't create a daily, active routine for yourself and your dog. Routine can bring you both a sense of comfort, and it can give you a reason to stay physically active. Having a routine can help both of you in the following ways:
- Boost your mood
- Give you more energy
- Help you to sleep
- Keep you focused
Make a morning activity part of your regular routine. Play in the yard together for 30 minutes, take a walk around the neighborhood, or pretend you're on a camping excursion and hit some nature trails for hiking. Just make sure you bring what's necessary to keep your dog safe while you're trying out camping activities. You should have booties for injured feet, bags to clean up after them, and a pair of pliers in case anything gets caught in their paws.
Some dogs can sniff out practically anything, so get on their level with a metal detector, or try geocaching to go on a real-life treasure hunt with them while you're out and about! Just remember to maintain social distancing, and don't go anywhere that is closed to the public. By getting outside for at least a few minutes each day, you both can establish a healthy routine and even healthier habits.
Play a New Game
Even if you and your furry friend are mostly stuck inside, there's no reason you can't get creative by playing new games with each other. It's just as important to stimulate their minds as it is to get them physically active Try these things:
- Playing hide and seek and letting them search for you
- Hiding treats all around the house or yard and letting them sniff out the goodies
- Teaching them new tricks
It's also safe for dogs to play with other dogs. No clear evidence has shown that people can spread COVID-19 to their pets or that animals can spread it to one another. So, as long as you're still practicing social distancing, give your dog some time and space to play with a family member's dog or a friend's dog. It can help them to burn off energy, allow them more companionship, and it can even give you a sense of normalcy -- something we could all use a bit more of right now!
Show Off Your Creative Side
Since you have some extra time on your hands, why not take up a new hobby that you can involve your dog in? Do you have the cutest pup in town (in your opinion anyway)? Is he the best boy? Head to a local open park and take some pictures of your furry friend! You don't have to be a professional photographer to have fun with a doggy photoshoot, and your pup will love all of the attention.
If you take pictures on your phone, you can even transfer and get them printed to send to family members and friends. It's just another fun, creative way to stay connected when it's so easy to feel far apart.
You can also get creative in the kitchen and try your hand at your own healthy, gourmet dog treats. You can include natural ingredients that your dog will love:
- Sweet potato
There are dozens of dog treat recipes to try. Just make sure you're using a recipe that features natural ingredients that are safe for your dog.
There's nothing wrong with lying on the couch every night and relaxing with your pooch and your latest Netflix series, but don't let such activities take over your whole quarantine experience. You can use this time to reconnect with your dog, try new things, and stay physically and mentally sharp.
Your dog might not realize just what they're doing for you merely with their presence. Be sure to thank them in whatever ways you can for keeping you company as you navigate the effects of this pandemic.