Millions of Americans are all feeling the effects of self-quarantine. It’s a necessary part of the process to keep our families healthy and safe. On the plus side, the World Health Organizstion has stated that “there’s no evidence that [our pets] can transmit the disease to humans and play a role in spreading COVID-19.” (link)
Unfortunately, as we spend more time indoors, our pets spend less time outside (checking pee-mail, chasing furry friends at the dog park or meeting new human ones). Ultimately, they’re not getting the much-needed mental stimulation and exercise that they need to stay healthy and happy.
We can get so focused on the very critical issues of staying healthy and safe that we can sometimes forget that our pets are looking to us to keep them healthy too! We need do whatever we can to keep them active and stimulated while under self-quarantine. Here are four ideas for keeping your furry loved ones stimulated during these trying times, some of which we as pet owners should be doing regularly even during normal times:
1. HIDING TREATS AROUND THE HOUSE
Dogs love to hunt, find and sniff in the wild. As Alexandra Horowitz describes in her great book “Being a Dog,” (link) a dog’s sense of smell is how they perceive the world. Hiding treats around thehouse for them to find will keep them mentally stimulated and also allow them an opportunity to practice using their sense of smell, something they are probably using less of when stuck at home.
2. OBEDIENCE TRAINING
Obedience training is incredibly valuable for dogs, and not just to ensure they stay good citizens as part of society. Oftentimes, pet owners focus on obedience training early on in a dog’s life and then stop once they’ve “been trained.” However, it’s important to remember that there are other long-term health benefits to obedience training too. As Andrea Arden reminds us, “trick training is likely to result in better health, increased flexibility, balance and concentration as well as a boost in your dog’s confidence.” (link) That’s why it’s so important to keep up with obedience training throughout his/her life. Even just ten minutes a day can provide a greatboost to a pet’s confidence!
3. TRIED AND TRUE TOYS
A great tried-and-true technique to keep your pet active and healthy is to fill up a durable toy such as a Kong with something tasty like peanut butter (read more here). This is a great way to tire your pet out while giving her something fun to do. A handy trick for if she gets through the peanut butter too quickly is to freeze it ahead of time, providing long-lasting enjoyment and entertainment.
4. NEXT GENERATION ACTIVE PLAY
A number of new technologies have come to market that allow folks to keep pets active. Although PlayDate (link) was originally created with the vision of allowing pet owners to keep in touch withtheir furry friends while at work, it’s also a great way to keep pets active during quarantine. The PlayDate smart ball connects through the home wifi to a pet owner’s mobile phone. They can control the ball remotely using the app. Canine cognition experts suspect that since the dog has no way of knowing that the owner’s behind the ball’s movement and squeaky sounds, the dog things it’s a live squirrel or rabbit. The result is a great way of keeping your pet mentally stimulated while ensuring that he’ll receive a well-deserved nap when he tires out from all the exercise.
These are tough times for everyone. We hope you and your family are staying safe and healthy and let’s get through this together!