So there we have it. We are a nation in lockdown.
And it is a lockdown, make no mistake about that. Our PM may not have used the word in his speech to the nation but the fact that they have brought in legislation to fine you for disobeying the rules makes it very much a lockdown that we must follow.
So what does this mean for dog walks? And your dog walker.
Let’s answer the latter first. Despite my many customers telling me that having a dog walker is essential to them, dog walkers are not classed a key worker. That means we can not walk someone’s dog for them.
Even if it’s for a person who is a key worker. If you are a key worker and rely on a dog walker then you need to make alternative arrangements for your dog now.
And if you are a dog walker who is still planning on walking someone’s dog, ask yourself these three very important questions:
- Are you prepared to pay a £1000 fine for breaking the rules, as set out by Boris Johnson?
- Are you prepared to be personally liable for the dog you are walking if they become unwell or ill under your watch? The fact that we have been put into lockdown will likely make your insurance void.
- Are you prepared to give up the one opportunity that you are allowed to have daily for exercise? This may mean that you can not take your kids out or your own dog/s.
If you are a dog owner and you understand that no one else can actually professionally walk your dog how are you going to survive these new restrictions that have been imposed on us when it comes to your furry friend?
It’s actually not as bad as it sounds. Honestly.
One walk a day is fine for most dogs, but let’s assume that in the forthcoming days our time outside will be given a restriction on time (it already has, we have been told to limit time outside but going on what has happened it’s likely people will find ways to flout this and so we will no doubt be given a time limit.)
If there are 2 adults in the house and you have a high energy dog you could take your dog out individually. Changes are that you will both appreciate a bit of time away from each other and this way your dog can get out twice. Win, win. This would work well if you have 2 dogs. Anymore than that you will need to team up as don’t forget we still have to practise social distancing.
Whilst out with your dog I would advise the following; unless your dog has exceptional recall, keep them on lead. This is for two very important reasons:
- If they run off there is no resource to help you search for your dog.
- If they are off the lead they have a higher chance of having an accident from running around. If they do have an accident they will have to go to the vets. And we are in a lockdown which means that you may have to drop your dog off and return home immediately. You won’t be able to stay with them.
At the moment you are probably thinking that I’ve not offered much help to you and you are right. But let’s face facts, it’s important you know what your obligations are when outside with your dog in this strange and unprecedented time that we have found ourselves in. You only have one pass to go outside every day.
But I’ve got a hot little nugget for you that will help you and your dog, not only stay safe whilst out, but calm enough to enjoy a gentle short stroll rather than a high speed adventure.
A warm up.
Yes that’s right, your dog needs a warm up. I’ve used this very successfully on high energy dogs, reactive dogs and excitable dogs.
This basically means you are going to help them get rid of their excess energy before you even leave the house.
You may have to play around with what works well for a warm up for your dog but we have time on our hands (3 weeks to be precise) and your dog will love the attention.
Things to try:
A game of tuggy. Pet shops are still open so find one that is size appropriate for your dog. Then play tug, and let them win sometimes. If tuggy is not there thing then play with their favourite fluffy toy.
Set up a mini agility course in your garden for your dog. Use objects from around the house for your dog to go up and round, washing up bowls, small step, bench, washing line pole. The options are endless. Lure them round with some high value treats and work on one part of the course a day. Once they have mastered that part, move on to the next till you come to a point that they can do the whole mini course. Once at that point, change it up again.
Train your dog. Teach them a new trick. A middle. Target touch. A check in. Whatever you want really. This is the ideal time to help your dog master that one thing you always wanted them to do. Lots of dog trainers will be going online now so you could invest in a one to one session with them and they will talk you through some cool things to teach your dog.
Just be mindful that on the warm up, whatever it is that you choose to do, you do not over reward with food. You won’t normally hear me say that but as you will be taking your dog out for a walk afterwards, you need to avoid them getting bloat (a serious life threatening condition) or being sick. In this instance you should limit the food reward and use fuss and/or play as the reward instead.
How long should you do a warm up? In my opinion it should be no longer than 15 minutes. Once your dog is calming down and/or starting to tire that is your sign that it’s time for the actual walk.
After your walk, your dog should be ready for a good nap. Don’t forget this is a strange time for dogs too. If they are use to being on their own during the day give them an enforced break. Pop them in their crate or the room they usually stay in during the day and let them have their 40 winks. A tired dog can also be a wired dog so make sure they have the opportunity to rest rather than follow you round the house all day,
Ultimately, for our dogs, us being at home with them during the lockdown is heaven sent. Use this opportunity wisely!
Sally Cousins is a self confessed mad dog lady!
After being mum to several rescue dogs she decided to turn her passion in to her career and set up her own dog walking business back in 2015.
Sally not only runs her business, she also writes for her own blog and also does guest blogs for other dog businesses. You can also find Sally chatting as a guest on dog related podcasts.