Covid-19 Lockdown Advice for Dog Owners
Following the latest Government announcement, we have been asked lots of questions about what this means for you and your dog. Take a look at some of our frequently asked questions, which will give you some helpful tips and advice on how you can help your dog to be happy and healthy over the next few weeks.
How can I keep my dog in a routine while I’m working from home?
It can be very exciting for your dog to have you home all day but you also want to make sure you’re set up for when normal routines resume otherwise your dog could have separation anxiety when you go back to work. Ensuring your dog has as normal a routine as possible is really important. If they start to understand the new structure of the day and when they will be fed, walked and have one-to-one time with you it will help them to feel comfortable.
It will also help to get your dog into a routine if you try to start and finish work at the same time each day, and take your break/lunch at the same sort of time – because these are times when you’re more able to connect with your dog. Factor in games and training sessions or just companion times with your dog during your breaks and evenings.
Can I walk my dog outside?
The Government has outlined that healthy people who don’t have symptoms can go outside and exercise within 5kms of their homes, once they practice social distancing. If you live in a multi-person household, each adult member of the house could take it in turns to walk your dog. Keep your dog on-lead when out walking and don’t be afraid to ask people not to pet your dog to ensure you stay at least two metres apart from other people at all times. If you don’t have a garden and need to take your dog out for a comfort break, please stay outside your property, and keep your dog on the lead. Don’t forget to pick up after your dog and wash your hands thoroughly when you are back inside.
Can I walk my dog off lead?
It's important to keep at least two metres apart from others and avoid situations where your dog might approach and greet other people or dogs. This means walking your dog on a lead when in areas with other people. Where dogs are not used to walking on a lead, keeping their attention on you with praise and rewards can help make walks a positive experience.
You can find advice on training your dog to walk calmly on a loose lead. With less exercise, keeping your dog entertained at home is also important - check our other tips.
Can I still take my dog to the vet?
All veterinary practices are now required to limit face-to-face contact with clients.
This means running an emergency care and emergency prescription service only.
Neutering (although important) is a preventative healthcare procedure and isn’t usually considered an emergency. As such, surgical neutering appointments will need to be made when normal services start back up again.
Please call your local veterinary practice if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.
Can I meet my friends and their dogs for a walk?
No. You should only socialise with people you are already living with. If you see someone you know when you are on your walk, including other dog owners, stay at least two metres apart, avoid petting their dog and wash your hands thoroughly when you get home.
How do I look after my dog if I’m unwell and self-isolating?
If you are unwell and have no-one else in your household able to look after your dog, contact your local friends or family, or a neighbour to see if they can help. If you are self-isolating, you should not go out at all.
It’s a good idea to create a plan in advance for who would be able to walk and feed your dog and take them on comfort breaks should you find yourself unable to do this.
Perhaps you could set up a WhatsApp group to build a connection with other dog owners in your neighbourhood. This could help you meet other dog owners, who could help to pick up essentials such as picking up dog food on a trip to the supermarket. Local Authorities or community groups may be providing additional support, so keep an eye on local noticeboards or online forums.
If that’s not possible, you might want to contact your local boarding kennels to see if they have space available.
There is currently no evidence to suggest that dogs can catch Covid-19, but we’d always recommend washing your hands before and after feeding, playing with or petting your dog. If you’ve moved recently or changed your phone number, ensure these details are up to date on your dog’s microchip.
How long should I walk my dog for? Can I take them for a longer walk in the car?
We appreciate how difficult a time this must be for you, especially as you are trying to avoid highly populated areas when taking your dog for a walk. Government guidelines say you should only be exercising within 5kms of your home while practicing social distancing to try to limit contact with others. Your dog will appreciate any time outside, however short.
Consider how you can keep your dog’s walk interesting.
You could try mapping out a slightly different route in advance to give your dog a chance to experience new sights and smells. A fallen tree, bench or even a bus stop can be made into a fun for your dog by getting them to jump over, circle around or just place their paws on them in return for a treat. Make sure anything you ask your dog to stand on is low to the ground and sturdy enough to keep them having a fun and safe time. Try giving your dog a different trick or action for them to do at every lamppost, tree, post box, etc, rewarding them with a treat or quick game. See HERE for indoor activities you can do with your dog.
Someone else is walking my dog for me. How can I protect us both?
Consider each individual situation and how to safeguard the person you are assisting.
- Agree the process in advance including time and duration of walk.
- Find a way to collect and return the dog securely, in a way which maintains a two-metre distance between you and negates you from having to enter the owner’s home.
- Never walk dogs from different households at the same time.
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds using soap and water before leaving your home.
- Wear gloves for the duration of any contact and dispose of them after use.
- Use a different lead to the owner’s.
- Don’t handle anything else, such as your phone, during any time of contact.
- Where possible, minimise touching the dog.
- Maintain your social distance while walking, keep to quiet areas and don’t allow other people or pets to come into contact with the dog.
- Wash the lead with soap and water once the dog has been returned.
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds using soap and water as soon as you get home.
There are no confirmed instances of transmission of Coronavirus (COVID-19) from pets to people. However, the virus could be passed from person to person via a surface such as a dog’s fur, collar and lead.
I’m running out of dog food, what should I do?
We would recommend ensuring you have a 14-day supply of dog food at all times and planning ahead with your pet shop as you would for other essentials. If you are self-isolating and need dog food, ask a friend or neighbour to collect it for you and leave it on your doorstep or order it online.
If I run out of dog food, can I give my dog human food?
Should there be a shortage of your dog’s usual food, owners may need to change food brands. We would advise, if possible, changing this gradually over a few days. If your dog has a medical condition requiring a specific diet, then taking guidance from your veterinary surgeon for details and tips on how to do this and what foods are most suitable for your dog. For general canine details on poisonous foods to avoid please see this information
What happens if there is a shortage of dog food?
We understand people’s concerns about making sure their four-legged friend still gets his or her favourite mealtime treats but, as far as we are aware, it is unlikely there will be a major shortage. Although, you may need to switch to an alternative brand if your local supplier is short.
Why is my dog 'acting up'?
Your dog might be used to having your undivided attention whenever they're at home with you.
Now that you’re home all day, and need time to work or home-school the kids, your attention isn’t always available.
Your dog may not understand that. You might find that your dog tries to get your attention when you’re busy.
Not getting attention when they expect it can cause frustration. It might make them try even harder by jumping, barking, dashing about, presenting toys, or grabbing sleeves.
Help your dog by making it clear when your attention is available and when it isn’t.
Have set times during each day that you’ll spend together, playing, grooming, or hanging out and quiet times when your attention is not available to them. Follow the advice in our video to teach your dog how to settle down by themselves.
Make sure they have something enjoyable to do when you’re busy. A big chew or food-releasing puzzle toy like is great for this.
Any tips for managing children and dogs in the home?
Yes, please click HERE for advice from our Education and Community team.
Remember that children should always be supervised around dogs, but it’s also important for everyone in the home to know the signs your dog may be showing you to let you know that they may need some space:
Body movements can be deceptive. A wagging tail on your dog is not always a good sign. It can signal agitation or upset as well as happiness, so it is important to look at your dog’s facial expression and their other body signals as well. Some dogs are harder to ‘read’ than others, for example if they have been bred with excessive skin folds, or very long, fluffy ears, or a tail that is set high and curled forward. However, you can become the expert on your own dog and on what he is ‘saying’.
What is the situation surrounding your dog? This will be the reason he reacts and is your clue to what he is saying. Is it new, noisy, competitive, or scary? Does your dog need a little gentler introduction to these situations so that he feels more relaxed in future?
Is your dog leaning away, with head lowered, ears back, eyes turned away? It may be that he is telling you he is uncomfortable. He may attempt to retreat and do allow this. He needs you to ‘listen’ to him.
One of the most misinterpreted body signals is that of the ‘guilty’ or ‘puppy eyes’ look in a dog. This is not as it seems, and dogs who roll their eyes upwards with a lowered head, walking slowly with a tightly closed mouth are actually feeling very worried indeed. It is a shame that our canine friends aren’t better understood when they are telling us that they are unhappy.
Alternatively, your dog might be staring hard, leaning forward, ears pricked sharply, with a very still, stiff body. This often means that your dog is highly stressed. He may be protecting something that he values, such as a toy or a tasty chew. Recognising these signs, which are all perfectly normal dog behaviours, is essential to prevent your dog becoming more stressed and even resorting to snapping or biting. If you see your dog showing these behaviours, then don’t get into a confrontation – move away so he calms down and contact your Vet to ask for referral to a qualified behaviourist.
When can we be sure our dog is happy? He will have a soft, gentle gaze, ears at their mid-point (not pointed forward or pinned back), and his mouth may be open and panting softly. His tail will be gently wagging, usually not carried high over his back. He may even wander towards a situation steadily, a sign of calm curiosity.