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14 Oct 2020

How to take care of your pet during lockdown

Lockdown has brought much change for our pets. Suddenly we were home full time or most of the time, changing their routines and nap times, which after several months they are now well accustomed to.

Pets that joined your family during these times have not known life any other way, and they’ve had a very different experience of socialisation compared to those pre-COVID-19.

In the future, our pets, like us, will need to adjust to a new normal as we start to transition to being out of the house for more hours a day. Some pets will take to this easily, others with more difficulty.

Here are some tips to help with pet care at this time:

1. Socialisation for pets who were brought home during COVID-19

More time at home means more time for bonding and training, which for both puppies, kittens and adopted adult pets is a plus. You can help your pets be comfortable with being handled gently, and teach your dog to learn to settle on a mat. Learning to quietly watch people and dogs pass by from a distance is another great skill that can be taught.

In-person group training and one-on-one outdoors training may not be available, although many puppy and adolescent dog classes can be found online. It’s great to speak to local trainers - who practice reward based training - so that you can switch to in person training when available. Training for adolescent dogs is just as important as the traditional puppy training period.

Take your puppy for walks to expose them to different areas, sounds and sights. Try going at different times of the day.

And, when restrictions permit and it is safe to do so, you can start to have puppy play dates with appropriate healthy dogs in back gardens.

2. Help pets feel relaxed when alone

Now is the time to start spending some time away from your pets as we approach a new normal. We need to do some work to reduce the chances of behavioural issues occurring from anxiety with sudden separation and change to their routine. Start small to fit into current restrictions. It can start with them being in a different room, building up to some short trips outside whilst they remain at home. We want to reduce the chances of behavioural issues occurring as we approach a new normal.

Start to introduce some activities to encourage your pet to have fun whilst they are home alone.

For cats ensuring they have multiple places to hide (e.g cardboard boxes) and climb, and for dogs consider a game to keep them busy on departure - such as hiding a stuffed chew toy filled with treats and teaching them to find it. You can start making the toy very easy to find, and gradually increase the work to find it. They will love it. Note that this may not be suitable with more than one dog at home in case fighting over the prize occurs.


 

3. Be calm on return

When you return home acknowledge your pet calmly and quickly, with a gentle low voice. Encourage a behaviour that you want them to do, such as sit - and make sure to reward them when they do.

4. Provide consistency

Physical stimulation through exercise, play and training is a must, but be aware that overstimulation and lack of sleep can also cause problems. Dogs and cats need more sleep than we do - quiet time and undisturbed sleep will help them be at their best and reduce overtired and destructive behaviours.

Ensure they have a private area that they can sleep, and not be disturbed by the other members of the house.

Written by Dr Claire Jenkins. Claire is a QLD graduate with over 15 years experience as a neighbourhood Veterinarian in Australia and the UK. Animal lover and the founder of Vetchat, born from a passion to help pet carers everywhere access trusted advice earlier, for healthier, happier pets. Grateful to be carer to her beautiful Red-dog.

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