Even pets suffer during lockdown... here's how to introduce the new normal

By Adryan Ogle Time of article published May 23, 2020

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Durban - As South Africans this week entered almost two months of the Covid-19 lockdown, pets have also had to adjust to this “new normal”.

Werner Roos, a South African dog behaviourist and trainer, says the lockdown has shifted regular activities for dogs, too. “Many people are still scrambling for ways to entertain themselves and their furry companions, who, similar to their owners, are adjusting to their new normal. This has meant not going for regular park walks, or even going for a run around the neighbourhood,” Roos said.

Pet speciality retailer Canine & Co says the lockdown can be stressful for pets, but it suggested many activities to stimulate dogs and ease discomfort, mitigating disruptive behaviour.

It says one way to kick-start indoor fun is scatter-feeding. This is an easy way to keep your furry friends busy for longer periods of time. Dogs are innate hunters, so making them earn their treats and food by looking for them should not be seen as punishment.

“This game is also a quick way to get them moving and exercised and ready for bedtime. Use part of their normal daily food portion so that you don’t overfeed them while ensuring that they receive their daily nutrient quotient,” the retailer said in a statement.

Start the game off by dropping some of the food or snacks while your pets are watching and then work at spreading it over a larger area. The game can be made trickier by making them “sit or stay” while you scatter the food, and let them know when they are allowed to start looking.

Nose games are also great to keep your canine entertained. Once your dog has learnt and understands the command to “find the treats”, you can keep him or her in another room while you hide the treats so you make the scavenger hunt more exciting.

“To make this game more rewarding, use some high-reward treats. Start by having your dog watch as you place them around the room and then ask him or her to find the treats once you’re ready to go,” the retailer said.

"Everybody loves a well-behaved dog, and your pet can be the envy of the suburb by trying out basic obedience training. “This is an activity you can practise with your dog every day. ‘Sit, lie down, shake, stay, and come here’ are the basics to start with. We all love a well-mannered pooch, but training your dog to obey a new command is a great challenge for them and provides a good workout for their brains. Remember not to spend a lengthy period of time doing this, but rather five minutes at a time.”

You can also use interactive dog toys, including making your own toy-treat dispenser. Place dry dog food or treats into an empty two-litre cold drink bottle and let your dog roll the bottle around, letting the treats fall out.

With the level-four lockdown possibly coming to an end soon, returning to a normal routine with your pet is on the horizon. But why not try to have fun indoors in the interim?

The Independent on Saturday

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