Know Your Pooch
Exercising your pet amid COVID-19 scare
I need not elaborate that COVID 19 is one of the scariest virus at present. The virologists are working overtime to make a vaccine to prevent the spread of the virus. That is going to take some time, as per the researchers and procedures involved therein. However, my objective today is neither to enlighten the readers about this virus nor to scar them. In these times when you are in a ‘Locked Down’ condition or you are forced to stay indoors for long hours, how can you manage the needs of your pooch.
Dogs adapt to the life style of their human parent pretty fast. If the family members are late risers, dogs also hold their need to go out and ease, much beyond the capacity of their bladder. Likewise, they are a creature of routine which includes timely meals and timely outings for exercise and excretion. Managing the outings is the most difficult part. Dogs have to be perfectly trained and should be in perfect health to finish off their ‘jobs’ in quickest possible time. Plus they should be trained to retrieve a ball or jump obstacles for indoor exercise. If your pooch is suffering from constipation, he will give you some anxious moments outside on the road, straining himself and taking his own time. On the other hand if your pooch has developed diarrhea, then you had it. You have to rush him out several times at odd hours.
Be assured that as per the knowledge about this virus and your dog there is the least chance that he will catch it. But since you will be outside you will have to take proper precautions. On entering the house you may have to sanitize the paws of your dog before sanitizing self. You must keep some arrangement for that, preferably outside your house. Once you have sanitized yourself, you must once again brush the pooch thoroughly and thereafter sanitize the brush as well. There is no Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) yet described for your pooch, but it is common sense that his hair can hold the virus, since he won’t be wearing shoes, his feet and paws have all the possibility of stepping over a human nasal discharge!
Whatever I have stated so far sounds easy, but one of the most difficult jobs if you have not trained your dog well. Unless you have taught him from the beginning to regular cleaning of paws, preferably by making him stand in a plastic basin of appropriate size to clean easily, you won’t be able to hold him easily. Thus, COVID or no COVID make it a routine to groom your dog daily in the manner described followed by a thorough brushing session. Please do not forget to reward him after each session. Without a reward he may not understand why he is being made to stand in water or why is he being brushed! All the while please keep wearing a pair of gloves which can be easily sanitized.
So far there are no confirmed reports of the humans infecting their dogs or vice versa with COVID 19. But to meet any emergency you must be prepared for the worst. Firstly train your dog to be handled by anyone in the family, just by chance if you are quarantined, your dog can be managed. Secondly, restrain self and everyone in the family for too much caressing, cuddling the pooch or even sharing your bed with him. COVID 19 has created problems for the children. Their pent up energies need a release but they are not able to so. The parents have to devise ways and means to keep them occupied. Our children are usually tech savvy and net savvy, so most of them are occupied with video games and the parents also try to spend time with them playing indoor games.
Your pooch faces the worst problem, because he has a store of energy many times more than your child’s. He needs to be kept vigorously occupied. Normally you take your pooch out and let him play in the Park or if he is trained to retrieve you make him retrieve several times or make him trot along your bicycle and keep his energy dissipated. Under the present circumstances, just like for your child, you have to devise games for your pooch to keep him occupied. One of the easiest game is to find, ‘where is the treat?’ Take his favorite treat in a fist and offer him to sniff both, ask in a cajoling tone, ‘where is the treat? If he sniffs the correct hand, open the palm and let him have it with lots of praise. Repeat it a few times and he will understand the command. Then you start hiding the treat in different parts of the house and ask him to find. Initially the search should be easy. Gradually make it difficult. He will enjoy the game because at the end he will get the treat.
Likewise you can devise many other games to like chasing his toy tied at the end of a long string, or chasing a light in a darkened room. Depending upon the availability of space and time you can devise more games and enjoy your lockdown. This staying at home period can be an opportunity for you to train your dog or teach him new tricks. The more interactive and rewarding are the tricks he will learn faster. You don’t need many tools or gadgets for that. For example place a walking stick across a door at a height that your dog has to jump across to reach the other side, where his treat is. Each time he jumps, you just give the command ‘BOZO, JUMP.’ And in no time learns to jump and returns in the hope of more treats.However, take care that in case you have the symptoms of COVID 19, please maintain a physical distance from your dog. He may not infect you with COVID 19, but in case you have it, you may make him a career inadvertently.