People across the world are altering their behavior to address COVID-19. Those who can are staying indoors and working from home. In public, we’re practicing social distancing and prioritizing sanitation.
And though these measures are helpful, they’ve come with a few side effects—including loneliness and anxiety.
Fortunately, many of us have found that furry companions offer a range of physical and mental health benefits that help offset these negative feelings. In fact, shelters in the United States have reported a significant rise in adoptions, and many foster organizations have no more pets available because of increased demand.
This uptick in adoptions and fosters is certainly a positive trend. But it’s more important than ever to remember that we must be responsible pet parents and work to keep our dogs happy and healthy.
Read on for tips on how to best care for your (new) pup during these unprecedented times.
1. Adopt or foster a dog of the right age.
Shelters are a great place to find vaccinated, house-trained dogs of all ages. But before you bring one home, you need to ask yourself: Are you ready for the responsibility of a puppy, or is a mature dog more your speed?
If you choose to adopt or foster a young dog, remember that puppies:
- Have unique nutritional needs
- Demand a significant amount of attention compared to mature dogs
- Should be socialized
- Need basic training (especially potty training)
- Require more frequent veterinary care, including vaccinations and parasite control
On the other hand, many older shelter dogs are house-trained and have lower energy levels. Yet, they make just as good of companions as their younger counterparts.
2. Pick a pup that suits your lifestyle.
Say you’ve decided to adopt a dog. Have you considered which breed or type of dog is appropriate for your current stage of life?
Dogs of different breeds can have vastly different exercise and activity needs. Some, such as a Shih Tzu or Greyhound, may be happy to take a leisurely walk. Others, including Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, will want tremendous amounts of exercise.
It’s essential to adopt or foster a pet that suits your lifestyle. But keep in mind that, these days, COVID-19 may be disrupting your lifestyle significantly. So, please consider how well your new family member will fit in once life returns to normal.
Even within a single breed, activity levels can vary dramatically depending on age. According to a study of the 20 most popular breeds in the Pet Insight Project, most puppies are between 3–4x more active than their breed’s adult or senior counterparts.
By learning about the breed makeup of your dog, you’ll:
- Get an idea of how much activity they might require
- Be able to predict their adult weight and size
- Better understand their behavioral and nutrition needs
You’ll also discover which genetic health conditions they may be susceptible to—allowing you to work proactively with your veterinarian to prevent or mitigate problems.
3. Stay active with your new dog (while practicing social distancing).
For most of us, daily routines have changed dramatically as a result of physical isolation. Yet, exercise remains important both for pups and their parents. So, if you’ve chosen to adopt or foster a dog during the current restrictions, be sure to provide your pups with regular activity and playtime.
Neighborhood walks—while maintaining appropriate physical distance from others—will go a long way in keeping both you and your dog happy and healthy. But when you’re not able to leave the house, you can play hide-and-seek or set up obstacle courses (only if there’s room and it’s safe to do so, of course).
You can also work on basic obedience training or teach your dog new tricks. This will help keep them both physically and mentally engaged—and it never hurts to brush up on the basics!
Get more ideas for games to play with your dog here.
4. Keep your new family member safe and healthy.
Good hygiene practices are key to keeping your pet and family healthy. This is true in normal times, and it’s especially true now.
Keep your pup safe by avoiding contact with wildlife and people potentially infected with COVID-19. And as always, remember to wash your hands after handling animals, wear gloves or use a plastic bag when picking up animal feces, and routinely disinfect surfaces that come into contact with your animals (e.g., crates, feeding areas).
For more recommendations, follow the latest news about protecting dogs from COVID-19, and communicate with your veterinarian about any concerns you may have.
5. Enjoy bonding time with your new fur child!
A major upside of spending more time at home right now is that you get more opportunities to bond with your dog.
You can maximize this bonding time by sharing experiences with your pup, continuing to train them and maintaining positive and clear communication. Giving treats can also encourage good behavior and bonding—but remember to treat in moderation, or even use regular kibble as a treat.
If you typically spend the day away from your dog, use this time to get to know them better. Learn how to interpret their facial expressions and body language. And don’t forget to reap the benefits of grooming and petting your dog! It reduces stress for you and feels great to them, too.
A final word on adopting or fostering a dog
Dog parents can attest to the many benefits of pet ownership—of having a companion to cheer you up, make you laugh and help relieve stress and anxiety.
Now, as we face an increasingly uncertain world, we’re seeing so many people choose to adopt or foster a dog for this companionship and support. And though this is wonderful, it’s so important to consider the commitment you’re making when you invite a new member into your family.
Together, we can make A Better World For Pets™—just as they continue to make our world better even in these unusual times.