As we gradually learn to grapple with life under lockdown, pet parents, however, are having a tougher time.
The lockdown has put a halt on the routine life of not only humans but also of the canines making dog owners, trainers, behaviourists and veterinarians extremely worried about the repercussions of staying indoors.
Since dogs are inherently social animals, going out for walks becomes an integral part of their daily routine.
Not only do they get a chance to interact with the outside world through their noses, hence strengthening their sense of smell, but engage in that necessary dose of exercise.
Now that the outside walks have stopped due to the strict adherence of the 21-day lockdown, the lack of physical agility in dogs might lead to behaviour issues.
“Our pet dogs are left wondering why their outdoor jaunts have stopped so suddenly. Now, one of their favourite activities with their human has been cancelled, and they are left with all that pent-up energy.
Also, the humans in the house are probably showing some signs of stress due to the lockdown, which the dog may pick up on. This might lead to some unwanted behavioural issues suddenly cropping up,” explains Tanya Patel, a dog trainer, and behaviourist.
Hence, to prevent these behavioural changes, there is a dire need for one to find alternatives to outdoor activities with indoor activities for the canines.
While some dog owners have got innovative by making their dogs climb up and down the stairs or playing fetch as means of getting exercise, dog trainer and behaviourist Srinivas Jakkani points out that these may not be the best options out there.
“Climbing up and down can get problematic for bigger breeds, as they can get seriously injured. Also, playing fetch in homes that have polished granite and tiles is not something recommended by vets as it can cause a lot of joint injuries,” he says.
Therefore, in circumstances like these, the trainers recommend substituting the physical exercises with the mental exercises.
“We are doing mental training so that their mind gets occupied and that much time gets removed from whatever naughtiness they can come up with. You can give them simple games like Treasure Hunt, which involves hiding their favourite treats around the house, and eventually, when the dog smells them, it goes on a treasure hunt,” recommends Srinivas.
What’s beautiful about this game is that the dogs will get to use their nose, although it’s very important to not make the trail difficult and set them for failure.
Additionally, Moresha Benjamin, an internationally certified canine trainer and behaviourist suggests playing Hide and Seek using praises and treats as incentives to strengthen their recall, giving them kong toys to play with and teaching them how to weave through chairs.
One of the most important things to be wary of is to not give dogs additional unwarranted attention, which may be out of the routine. Explaining the reason behind it, Moresha says, “If you keep giving them attention then on resuming work post lockdown, the dogs may suffer separation anxiety issues due to your absence. Having a healthy time away from dogs is very important.”
As heart-breaking reports of dog owners abandoning their dogs in fears of them being carriers of the highly contagious coronavirus have been floating around, experts have demystified that dogs cannot be the carriers of COVID-19. However, trainers warn that this should not allow the owners to be lackadaisical in maintaining their dogs’ hygiene.
“Dogs don’t transmit it, but if a person has COVID-19, and he/she touches the dog, then the virus can be on the fur, so one has to follow the cleaning regime using soap water. A lot of people are using the Betadine solution, but it won’t work as Betadine kills bacteria and not viruses. One has to clean the underbelly, the paws up to the elbows, the mouth, and all of the places where the body is exposed and could come in contact with surfaces. And, do not use sanitisers at all as it is poisonous for them,” concludes Moresha.