Pandemic Response: Creative Play With Your Dog
Your dog craves attention and possibly playtime as well, but cluttering your house with toys and treats isn’t required to keep your dog happy. I like to keep a high value treat on hand as well as a regular treat, both of which can be broken easily into many small pieces. Playtime with your dog shouldn’t be followed by an upset tummy from too many treats!
Whether you’re suddenly working from home, working away from home, or out of work during the pandemic, read on for dog-inclusive ideas to keep you and your pup occupied.
START WITH YOURSELF
As a caregiver, I am constantly looking to help others and my own well-being can fall by the wayside. Self-care and creating a new daily routine is a good place to start because without you, your dog will also fall by the wayside.
Throughout the day, take a break to stretch or move around. Including your dog in these activities will solve two issues with one simple and mindful activity. My dogs immediately get excited when we queue up some music and dance; they like to join in too and it’s an excellent way to signal that it’s playtime!
“THIS OLD THING? IT WAS JUST LAYING AROUND THE HOUSE.”
Common household items can suddenly become valuable and interactive dog toys. A muffin tin, an old dog bone, good hiding spots. Even if you don’t have Kong dog toys, you can smear some peanut butter with treats embedded inside a hollow dog bone. Put it in the freezer for a bigger challenge!
Muffin tins can prolong the eating experience or even mix things up when you put a tennis ball on top of each tin hole. As with any new experience, encouragement works wonders, so give your pooch a pep talk as they investigate.
Broken tennis balls are instant puzzle toys as well. Cut a seam and stuff with treats or kibble. A PVC pipe drilled with holes is also a quick DIY toy; fill with food and plug the ends. The same can be done with a water bottle, milk jug, or any plastic container. Hide treats around the house and encourage them to seek them out. Play hide-and-go-seek with a family member. When they are found, treat and praise your dog for a job well done.
WHEN YOU CAN’T (OR DON’T WANT TO!) BE THERE
Dogs respond to change relatively well…most of the time. Spending more time with your dog may be the norm now, but it’s a good idea to prepare them for your eventual return to work. Take time for yourself outside of the house to avoid possible separation anxiety.
Giving them something to do while you’re away or busy working is a good start. They’ll learn to entertain themselves and will make the transition back to work easier on everyone. As with any toy, supervision is important. You know your dog best so be sure to leave them with toys that won’t result in a costly vet bill.
WE’RE IN IT TOGETHER
Minnesota is currently under a stay-at-home order, and that has vastly decreased my dog’s energy outputs. We had to get creative with activities and games; I’m fortunate that my high-energy French Brittany and chocolate Labrador enjoy fetching. Our nightly routine is to throw a tennis ball down the stairs…for about 45 minutes. What have you been doing with your dog to keep them occupied? Include any tips or tricks you’ve learned while staying at home with your pup.