Practicing social distancing with your dog? READ ON…
As of today (April 29, 2020), there have been a few reported cases of domestic dogs and cats being infected with coronavirus (COVID-19). This handful of cases appear to be human-to-animal transmission and the “infected” pets only exhibited mild symptoms, if any. So, the good news is that it appears that domestic animals are LESS susceptible to the virus than humans. All “infected” domestic animals are also expected to make full recovery. Based on the available data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 to people. Hence, there is still no need to panic or abandon your pets. However, the CDC updated its guidelines in recently advising that pets should also practice social distancing with other animals and humans.
What to do if you own pets
Until we learn more about how this virus affects animals, treat pets as you would other human family members to protect them from a possible infection.
- Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
- Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
- Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people and animals.
- Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
There is a small number of animals around the world reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after having contact with a person with COVID-19. Talk to your veterinarian if your pet gets sick or if you have any concerns about your pet’s health.
Protect pets if you are sick
If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed by a test), you should restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would with people. Until we know more about this virus, people sick with COVID-19 should avoid contact with pets and other animals.
CDC reiterates the following:
- At this time, there is NO evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.
More info can be found on the CDC website.
ARRRF! Before the release of these new guidelines, dogs could socialize with each other as long as the humans maintained the 6 ft distance. With social distancing guidelines now in place for dogs (and cats), things have taken a slight turn. 🙁 Dogs are naturally social beings! Yep, I can smell another canine from blocks away and wag my tail continuously until I can do the usual greet – SNIFF, MARK, and LEAVE. GRRR – how can I live a life without socializing with other dogs? That would be pure boredom! Since you can’t explain to dogs why they can no longer sniff those furry strangers’ buttocks, you should take on other measures to compensate for your dog’s decreased socialization. With my massive Yorkie brain, I came up with these 8 tips for social distancing with your dog. SNIFF ME OUT BELOW!
*For simplicity, the gender of the word “dog” will be in the masculine form (“he” or “him”) throughout this post.
8 Tips on Practicing Social Distancing with Your Dog:
#1 Divert your dog’s ATTENTION
The easiest and most humane way to practice social distancing with your dog is to divert his attention from another dog with a small, delicious treat or his favorite toy. WOOF, positive reinforcement works best in dog training. If you have a SUPER social dog like me, it’s challenging to say NO every time your dog wants to sniff out a butt or nose. Lure his cute wet nose with a tasty treat every time he wants to run off to say hello. It works!
While it may be acceptable to gently pull your dog for communication purposes, I do NOT recommend aggressively yanking your dog away or verbally snapping at him. Dogs who are used to socializing with other dogs won’t understand why they can no longer do so. For more effectiveness, always use positive reinforcement!
#2 Give your dog MORE attention
If you are making your dog practice social distance outside, you should make sure that you provide him with that extra attention, LOVE, and care to compensate. Keep your dog as busy and connected as possible by spending more time with him. From belly rubs to fun games, there are plenty of ways to keep your dog busy indoors.
#3 Walk your dog during OFF HOURS
As I suggested in 11 precautions to take with your dog during a lockdown, walking your dog during non-peak hours is KEY when it comes to social distancing. A walk before sunrise and/or later in the evening can strategically help you avoid other humans and dogs.
#4 Be POLITE, but FIRM if someone tries to pet your dog
How do you tell someone NOT to pet your dog, especially when they have friendly intentions? Unfortunately, this is something that dog owners have to cope with during these eerie times. Instead of aggressively pulling your dog away, politely tell the person (from a safe distance, of course), “So sorry, dogs need to practice social distancing too,” or something along those lines. Smile and walk away. Don’t be rude! Please understand that not everyone is aware of these new guidelines so it may take some time.
#5 CROSS the street
As soon as you see another dog or human coming your way, cross the street with your dog to avoid close interaction. Be alert at all times during the walk (drop the phones, humans!) so you can catch the passersby before your dog sniffs them out. It’s much easier to divert his attention when he doesn’t know who’s coming!
#6 Make the INTERACTION quick
If your dog is caught in a situation where he cannot avoid another human or dog, try to make the interaction as quickly as possible. Walk away immediately after a quick sniff!
#7 Let your dog BARK by the window or balcony
Just because your dog has to keep his distance from other dogs does NOT mean he can’t interact with them in other ways. With superior hearing and robust wet noses, dogs can detect each other’s presence from a distance. Stimulate your dog by allowing him to verbally communicate with dogs who are outside or walking by. Although barking is annoying to many humans, it is a crucial form of communication in a dog’s world. Humans speak and dogs bark. It’s that simple. In times of isolation, I urge you to be lenient and accepting of your dog’s barks. Understand that social distancing is denying him of the necessary socialization and stimulation. As long as he’s not continuously disruptive, a couple of barks and growls here and there during the day won’t hurt. It’ll keep him entertained!
PLEASE make sure your window, glass door, or balcony is secure and dog-proof to avoid potential danger to your dog.
#8 Spend more time with your dog in the BACKYARD (if you have one)
If you have a backyard, you should utilize it to spend more time with your dog. You two can sunbathe, play ball, start up the grill, or even take a quick nap. OR you can do some real “work” with your best friend right next to you. Your dog can enjoy some fresh air and sun without having to encounter other dogs and humans. Perhaps he’ll even hear more barks from the neighborhood dogs!
Please note that backyard access should only complement, not replace daily walks for dogs. Daily walks are crucial to your dog’s physical health and mental stimulation.
If you have another tip on how to practice social distancing with your dog, feel free to leave me a comment or shoot me a message. BARK AT ME! Please continue to be safe and treat all your furry friends like REAL members of the family.
Markin’ it up,
Roger Wellington a.k.a. The Doob
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