Author: Louise Grubb – July 2020
2020 has provided a plethora of unprecedented challenges. Our lives have become unrecognisable with COVID-19, as we have traded the ties for tracksuits and shoes for slippers. With this, we have more time to spend on ourselves, friends, and family, furry or otherwise.
Spending so much time together inevitably leads to some toes being stepped on, or paws in this case. The need for time apart is as necessary as time together, and the same is relevant for our pets.
Due to COVID-19, we are disrupting our dogs feeding, sleep and exercise habits, to name but a few. Listed out below are the 7 biggest new changes in our pet’s lives.
Space in the family home has become more of a premium, with a constant presence of zoom calls and quiet study, As you go into the kitchen for your fifth cup of tea avec un petit biscuit, you may feel the need to provide your pet with the same, as they look up through heartbroken eyes that you would even consider an alternative.
We know that constantly grazing can be a fast track to weight gain. While we can kick these habits, your ragdoll or doberman will most likely find it very difficult to break them, causing behaviour driven out of frustration and hunger. Ultimately this will result in you punishing your pet for habits that you have created yourself, albeit unbeknownst to you.
Spending the whole day snacking and contained within the same four walls can wreak havoc on our posture and physical wellness. More than ever people are having to set time aside in the day to walk, instead of incorporating it in their commute.
10,000 steps is the daily target for humans, but it may not be as achievable for your dog. While they typically would enjoy their walk, they now have every individual in the household vying to get their own mental break with best friend in tow. A rota for walking would be in the best interests of your dog, and keep a keen eye out for any limping. If the leash causes them to cower in terror, it may be a good idea to leave them behind!
All of this walking, feeding, and unprecedented day-time attention, may make it difficult for your pet to get twenty minutes of uninterrupted sleep in a day. Dogs sleep on average 12-14 hours a day, while cats manage up to 16 hours a day. With everyone keen to share their affection, it is important to remember that sometimes the best way to show love is to keep your distance!
An excellent way to provide for their sleep is to try to give them some privacy. If their typical spot is regularly interrupted by family members, it may be worthwhile giving them a greater run of the house than before to let them find their own sanctuary. Let sleeping dogs lie!
- Dog Dates
It has been difficult adapting to the new limitations inflicted by Covid with so many social outlets ceased. While cats crave their independence, many dogs may be missing their friends from parks, dog dates, or doggy daycare.
Dogs have not yet been proven to be transmitters of Covid thankfully, which does allow for them to keep some of their freedom. However, surfaces such as collars, and tennis balls etc. can be transmitters. You can casually bring this up in conversation when down the park maintaining your 2m social distance chatting to other owners. This leaves your dog to enjoy their friend’s company in peace!
This newfound time has provided us with the opportunity to develop ourselves. While your tabby or great dane may not be as keen to hear your new guitar practice, there are things that you can all enjoy together.
The Irish Kennel Club provides some excellent insights to teach fun and useful tricks. Some lessons can include:
- Come here
- Lie down
- Roll over
The most important thing to remember is consistency. Rewards are for positive behaviour only and not because you feel sorry for your slow learner, they will get there eventually! Accompany a small treat with a scratch and some positive words upon completing the task. Eventually they will find it so easy, such a simple trick will be a great trade for a scratch behind the ear.
Routine plays a key role in all of our lives. It is the ticking of the clock which saves us from constantly having to think of our next steps. As fellow animals, our pets are no different. Predictable and consistent environments result in calmer and more settled cats and dogs.
While we have adapted to our new lifestyle, cats and dogs are less likely to understand such complicated issues. It is therefore a priority that we communicate the ‘new normal’ in a clear and consistent manner. A morning walk can also placate your dog throughout the day, creating a healthy routine for you and your dog!
Your cats and dogs will be inundated with stimulus and affection. It is important to know that too much of anything is not a good thing. Cats in particular are not shy in letting us know when they need their own time. Dogs, while more placid, also have their breaking point. Remind your family that, just like us, pets need their space too!
When the ‘new normal’ is replaced by the ‘old normal’ our pets’ lives will once again be turned upside down. While they might be righted in our minds, this is much harder for our pets to understand. From being fussed over, fed, and walked all day every day, to spending 10+ hours by themselves five days a week, this transition can be much more difficult. You can aid this transition by ensuring they are entertained with DIY toys, snuffle mats, or even the radio/television.
Finally… It is imperative to know that any new behaviours are reactions to habits we have instilled in our pets, and not their fault. The best way to prevent these things from happening is to get out ahead of the curve, and keep good habits concrete throughout lockdown(s).