Lockdown Advice: Making walkies fun

Going out for a walk is the highlight of the day for many dogs. Changes in routine due to COVID-19 may mean less walks, different routes, no play with other dogs and being on the lead more. These changes can be frustrating for dogs – they won’t understand why they are having less freedom.   Here are a few tips to make sure your dog gets the most out of walkies while you maintain social distancing.

Black dog closed eyes
  1. There's no evidence that dogs can carry, or be infected by, COVID-19. But they could have the virus on their coat or collar if they've been in contact with an infected person.

    It’s essential that we ensure our dogs also abide by the social distancing rules. Scan the park for other dogs. Your dog might become frustrated if they usually run and play with other dogs. Be ready to keep their attention on you with their toy or treats as you move away. Keep your eye out for cyclists or joggers and keep a good distance away. Call your dog to you for some treats or a game instead and keep them close to you.

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    The government advises that you keep your dog on-lead if you're walking in an area where other people are. It’s OK to let your dog off lead if you're sure there's no one else around.

    Each adult in the household can only take your dog out once a day.

    Getting outside for their walks is the highlight of many dogs’ days. They won’t understand why they can't run free, play with doggy friends or go out more than once a day.

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    Keeping the walk as interesting as possible will help avoid frustration. You can attach a long line to a harness to give your dog more freedom to explore. Allowing them to follow scents around the park and taking a dog-directed route could be fun for both of you. Playing with a toy or scattering treats for them to find will also keep their brain active.

    You can also practice training exercises. You can reward your dog for turning and coming to you even when they’re on-lead. This will help establish a good recall once they are off the lead in the future.

    If they are off lead, then keep rewarding your dog for coming when you call them. Even if you’re the only ones about, someone else might appear at any moment. It’s vital to be able to call your dog back and pop them on-lead if you need to keep your distance from anyone.

    If your dog enjoys a reward for coming back to you, they’ll be more likely to come running next time you call. Take treats that you dog loves with you on walks.

  4. It might be hard for dogs who are used to running freely to be kept on-lead. They might show their frustration by grabbing their lead in their mouth and pulling it, or they might pull ahead and lunge or bark at people or other dogs.

    Be prepared for this by keeping your distance. Use praise, treats or toys to keep your dog’s attention focused on you.

    If your dog is likely to take the lead in their mouth be ready to scatter treats on the ground in situations where this may happen. They'll sniff these out rather than grabbing the lead. If they like toys you could offer them one to hold on their walk rather than biting their lead.

    Remember it’s also vital to keep dogs on lead whenever there are livestock present.  

  5. Some dogs really like routine, some aren’t too bothered. You know your dog best.

    For dogs that love routine try and stick to the same time of day for their walks.

    Other dogs may find that exercising at different times offers more interest from different sights, sounds and smells.

    If your dog seems to struggle when there are people and other dogs using the same public space, try going at a different time, or find places where less people are out and about.