Most dogs are accustomed to regular exercise and having their social needs met by playing in public areas with other dogs. Due to the current social distancing regulations as a result of Covid-19, pet owners may find their dogs unusually active, mischievous, and frequently interrupting them from getting any work done at home.
According to Robert Haussman, co-founder and behavior consultant of Dogboy NYC, our dogs need exercise and mental stimulation to be calm. If dogs are not kept regularly active, they will find a way to put the energy into other kinds of outlets such as chewing up your furniture, excessive barking, jumping up and down, spinning in circles, chewing on shoes, etc.
Our pets are not able to understand the changes Covid-19 has brought into their lives and the far-reaching implications for them. They are also limited in what they can do to exercise and entertain themselves indoors.
Haussman says dogs experience mental stress if they get less exercise than usual. Like us, our dogs need exercise and recreation to keep mentally and physically well. It is our responsibility to keep them healthy and expend their excessive energy. Luckily, there are lots of activities to keep dogs physically and mentally active as we shelter together at home.
1. Fun with Treats
Staying at home more means it’s easier to overfeed our dogs when they are hanging around, begging, or annoyingly pawning at our feet. Instead of merely giving treats away, make your dog work for them. Haussmann notes that playing with treats is not only fun and exciting for your dog but also provides them their much-needed mental stimulation.
One way to do this is to use toys like a Kong or any dispensing ball that your dog will have to move around to get their treats out. To push your dog further, train them to play an interactive game such as Dog Twister and Dog Brick to get the treats.
2. Hide and Seek
Hide and seek game provides mental stimulation for your dog by engaging an integral area of their natural instincts. It reinforces their send tracking abilities and strengthens their record behavior.
For this game to be effective, you have to train your dog to follow the ”stay” command so they won’t just follow you to your hiding location. If not, find someone else to keep your dog still while running away to hide.
Raise the complexity of the game as you go alone, such as increasing the distance you hide from them or finding more difficult hiding spots. This game is also a great way to keep kids who are cooped up indoors active, so make sure to invite the whole family.
3. Play Fetch or Make An Obstacle Course
Playing fetch with your dog’s favorite toy or a softball allows them to burn off a lot of energy and also reinforces the level of respect between the two of you. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to go outside or have a lot of room to play fetch with your dog. A hallway or a flight of stairs will do just fine.
Use limbo bars for your dog to go under or tape for them to jump over. Rearrange the furniture in your house for them to move around. Haussmann says you can also teach your dog to jump over a chair to make the game exciting.
If you can, save your bottles or cans to form a maze and place treats along the path for them to lead your dog to the finishing line. Obstacle courses provide for mental exercise for your dog by giving them a chance to make their own decision and building on their focus.
4. Scent Games with Toys
Teach your dog some of their toys and play ” find it’ game. Place the toys in a pile or container and tell them to find a specific toy. Dogs are excellent at sniffing objects. Practicing this skill by finding their favorite toy will give them an outlet for their natural abilities.
As your dog gets better at this game, make it more challenging by increasing the number of toys they have to sniff through.
Puzzles keep your dog mentally stimulated. They are lots of dog puzzle games available, but if you don’t have any, there’s also a ton of DIY puzzles you can make for your dog at home.
A simple DIY dog puzzle is the muffin tin treat game, where you only need a muffin tin, a treat, and tennis balls. Take an empty muffin tin, break a treat into small pieces, and place them in some of the muffin cups. Place tennis balls on top of all the muffin cups to hide the treats. Let your dog discover the muffin cups with the treats.
6. Tug of War
Playing tug of war is an excellent way to help your dog release its energy and reinforce the connection between the two of you. The chief benefit of this game is that it doesn’t require a lot of room to play.
Contrary to what some people think, playing tug of war with your dog will not make them aggressive or dominant. Let your dog win a bunch of times to make it more fun for them and keep them engaged. In fact, experts say that dogs that play tug of war often with their owners have more self-control and are more obedient. However, do not play tug with your dog if they have a history of aggression.
Alternatively, you can also have your dog chase you around the house.
Social distancing makes it very challenging to maintain the same level of activity for our canine companions as before COVID-19. Though challenging, it is essential to exercise your dog for their mental and health wellbeing.