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You and your dog are spending lots of time indoors, making those daily walks something both of you look forward to a bit more than usual!
While the World Health Organization (WHO) states that there is no evidence that COVID-19 affects dogs and reassures us that this form of coronavirus cannot be passed from dogs to humans, it is affecting the way many of us walk our dogs. Where we go, what we do, and even when we walk are top considerations.
Try to maximize your dog’s time outdoors
Some governments allow people to spend unlimited amounts of time outdoors. Others attempt to minimize the number of people exercising at any given time by allowing one outdoor exercise period per person, per day. If you live in an area where there are limitations, spend as much time as you can with your walk. If you live with another person, consider taking separate walks so that your dog can get out of the house twice instead of just once.
You can get creative with maximizing your dog’s outdoor time; for example, if you live alone or if your work hours are extended, you can get help from a friend, a member of your extended family, or even a professional dog walker. Even though some governments have placed limits on how long individuals may spend outdoors or the number of times they may go out for exercise, no similar restrictions exist for dogs.
If others are entering your home, make sure to practice social distancing. Sanitize door knobs and other high-touch objects before and after your dog’s walker arrives and remember to wash your hands frequently, too.
Related: The Science Behind COVID-19 & Advice for Animal Owners
Stay safe when walking in low light
Whether you’re an essential worker with a daytime job (thank you!), or if you’re someone who prefers to walk your dog early in the morning, after the sun goes down, or even late at night, consider wearing reflective clothing, and keep your dog safer with a light up LED dog collar.
Condition your dog if you’re walking more
If you’re able to spend more time walking than you normally do, you’ll want to gradually condition your dog. Their paw pads might not be tough enough to handle longer distances, for example, and their muscles might not be ready for a sudden increase in mileage. Be sure to avoid hot sidewalks, too!
When you walk long distances, remember to carry water for yourself and your dog, along with a collapsible dish. A small pack with snacks for each of you might be helpful, too!
Stay out of areas that are closed to the public
Some cities allow citizens to use public parks, while others are asking everyone to stay out. Even though your dog might love the idea of running through a completely empty park, it’s important to keep out if the park is closed. Consequences might include a stern warning or even a steep fine.
Related: 5 Tips to Keep Pets Safe During COVID-19 Pandemic
Say hello while maintaining distance
Walking your dog during the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t mean you’ve got to avoid everyone completely. Many of us long for conversations, and lots of us look forward to the day when dog parks reopen and pet parents can once again engage in friendly banter. Until then, we’ve got to do our part by maintaining social distancing.
Since there are so many unknowns including whether this form of coronavirus can be carried on a pet’s coat (it isn’t likely), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently established social distancing guidelines for pets. Some of this guidance affects dog walkers:
- Don’t let your dog interact with people or other animals that don’t live in the same household
- No nose-to-nose contact or up-close sniffing with dogs that don’t live in your home
- No friendly pats from people who don’t live in your home, even if they’re friends or family members (sorry!)
- Keep your dog on a leash at all times
- Maintain the recommended safe social distance of 6 feet (about 2 meters) from other people and pets
- Ensure your dog stays at least 6 feet away from other dogs
- Avoid dog parks and other public places where people and dogs typically gather
- Wear a mask if you will encounter others during your walk
To make this simpler, choose the least busy place possible to walk your dog and try to time your walk so that you’ll encounter fewer people. When you do encounter someone else, find a way to create more space between you – i.e., cross the street if you can, or move off the sidewalk to allow the other person to pass.
- Say hello to your neighbors but remember to maintain social distancing.
- Offer a friendly wave or smile if you’re not wearing a mask. Acknowledging others matters even more now that we’re living with COVID-19.
Related: Pet Sitters Could be Key in Alleviating Separation Anxiety Post-Quarantine
It’s no fun to avoid others; that’s one of the biggest downsides of walking your dog during the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, this is a great time to enjoy your pet’s companionship and strengthen the special bond you share.
Emma is a professional writer and blogger, with two furry friends and a lot of pet behavioral and pet health knowledge to share. She has written for numerous big animal magazines and health sites, and is a regular contributor to The Catington Post.