How to keep pets entertained during lockdown
With the spread of the current virus, many pet parents around the globe have found themselves overwhelmed by the lockdown restrictions.
Although the rules of isolation vary from government to government, and country to country, many pet owners have been allowed only one walk with their pets during the day, which calls for some improvised home-based entertainment.
If you've been looking for engaging and quality ways to occupy yourself and your pet, here are some simple ideas to help you pass the time and creatively enrich your lockdown days.
Compensate for the lack of walks
Dog owners understand the struggle. If you live in a flat, you've probably walked your dog at least three times a day (possibly even more) before the lockdown. Luckily, there are ways to help your pooch overcome the lack of physical activity and bathroom breaks.
Puppy owners may find this more difficult as puppies tend to be extremely energetic, active, and need toilet breaks every two hours. To help your little rascal deal with the "zoomies", you can try out a puppy playpen in your flat, which you can fill in with toys, chewing ropes, blankets, and even put a potty training pad there. In many countries it's still possible to get deliveries online of pet products.
A playpen will keep your pup occupied and allow it to move around freely without making any mess around your flat. It also gives the dog a sense of privacy, as their playpen becomes their own space to keep.
To make up for the lost cardio workouts, using a treadmill (if you have one) is an excellent way to exercise dogs, especially large breeds like German Shepherds or giant breeds like the Afghan Hound. It may take a few tries for them to get the hang of it, but eventually, your dog will take a liking to treadmill exercising.
Utilize toys and pet accessories
Now is the time to make good use of all the squeaky and chewing toys you've got lying around. You can also improvise by turning some household items, like string, bouncy balls, and boxes, into engaging pet playthings. Cats in particular love boxes. So long as they're safe and not a choking hazard.
Cats generally enjoy chasing and tossing things around. Also, anything suitable for scratching and climbing on is welcome. You can attach a shuttlecock on a string or yarn and swing it around. The classic red laser pointer or flashlight dot is always fun for a cat to chase and stimulate their prey drive.
When enclosed, dogs mostly enjoy activities that involve fetching, catching, and tugging. Use an old cloth, a rubber pull toy, or a rope and play "Tug of War". This is a multi-engaging activity that not only keeps your dog busy but also provides mental and physical enrichment if done correctly. ]
A good idea is to pick a toy or item that will only be used for this game. You can also control the dog's tugging instinct by teaching a release command, like "stop," or "drop it."
Be creative with games
A lockdown is a perfect time to utilize your creativity and take up something fun for both the family and the pet. Agility training games, such as a DIY obstacle course, can easily be set indoors or in your garden. If you have children, this could be a great family activity to keep everyone occupied and entertained.
Obstacle courses are fantastic for hamsters and mice but are fun enough for cats and dogs too. Use some cones, chairs, plastic containers, or baskets to make jumping, tunnel and weaving obstacles, ramps, and partitions. You can even let your kids compete with the pet, or keep your pet's score, etc. This is also a good time to get your kids more involved in caring for your pets if they haven't been part of the feeding or exercise routines.
Simple games like hide-and-seek and fetch are also great to get the adrenaline rushing.
Make sure to reward your dog with a treat when it finds you or successfully brings back a toy or an item.
Don't forget the need for mental stimulation
Mind-stimulating activities can be just as tiring as physical. You can play search games with your pets, like a scavenger hunt for animals. Hide some delicious treats around the house and let the dog or cat find its way around.
You can also play the shell game by hiding a reward under one of the three cups, then move them around and let the dog guess where the treat is.
What's more, you can use the spare time you have to catch up with training. You could start with this very effective FREE course from Doggy Dan, a well-known dog trainer from New Zealand.
A simple paw shake is a good command to start with, or you can upgrade the "fetch" game by naming some toys and teaching the dog to retrieve them by memorizing the names.
Although cats are generally more self-sufficient and stubborn, there are ways to teach them some cute tricks. For example, clicker training showed to be a useful training technique that basically works on the principle of conditioning with treats, constant repetition, then teaching the animal to perform a command by responding to a click sound.
Remember to look on the bright side
There are always both positive and negative sides of a situation. The same goes for this pandemic crisis. You can decide to lament over the good days spent outdoors, or you can fuel your creative mind and optimize the free time you have on your hands to make everything easier for the whole family.
When it comes to pets, their mood will mostly depend on how you, as the owner, handle them and stimulate their mind and body. Therefore, use these nifty ideas to turn the lockdown into a positive experience.
guest post - JOHN WOODS
John is the Founder of "All Things Dogs" and leads the editorial team as an Editor in Chief. He also writes for "Animalso". John has also volunteered at multiple animal shelters, where he gained firsthand experience of rehabilitation and force-free positive reinforcement training methods.