Before we dive into this post, let’s get serious for a moment.
The coronavirus situation is terrifying, and with the UK government essentially taking us into lockdown, there’s not much we can do… Other than keep safe.
That’s especially hard when you’re a dog parent to Spaniels, who have all the energy in the world.
I’ve seen tons of questions asking how this impacts dog owners. Are we able to walk our pets as normal? Should we keep our dog on-lead whilst we’re in lockdown? And how can you keep your pup entertained at home if we’re not allowed to walk as much as usual?
This guide answers all of those questions.
Can I walk my dog during quarantine?
Spaniels need between 60-90 minutes of exercise per day. They have tons of mental and phyiscal energy to burn off, hence why you might be used to walking your dog multiple times a day pre-lockdown.
But the new rules mean you can only have one form of exercise per day (i.e. one walk).
If you have two people in your household, you can split that between you. One person can use their once-a-day walk taking your dog out in the morning; the other in the afternoon. That way, you’re not breaking any rules, and your dog still gets their exercise.
If you live alone, you’ll have to cut down your walks to one per day.
But if you’re self-isolating because you or someone in your household has symptoms, you shouldn’t go outside at all.
If or when you do venture out on your one exercise per day, it’s crucial to still think about social distancing rules. At present, you need to leave a 2-metre gap between yourself and anyone that doesn’t live with you.
That means: If you see another person on your walk that you don’t live with, keep a safe gap between you.
Should I walk my dog on-lead during lockdown?
You might be used to walking your dog off their lead in woodlands, forests, or fields.
I strongly recommend keeping your dog on their lead during lockdown for two reasons:
- It stops your dog running to other people (you should be social distancing)
- You can’t ask people to help find your dog if they run off
Not only that, but walking your dog on their lead can be more tiring for them. They need to be obedient and keep their attention on you. Plus, they’ll have to resist the urge to chase things–like birds, rabbits, or sheep–when they know they’re on a lead.
7 ways to keep your dog entertained during lockdown
One walk a day might not be enough for your dog. But even if you’re kept inside because you’re self-isolating, you (and your dog) don’t need to go stir-crazy.
We’ll share a handful of ideas to keep your pup entertained, including:
- Search games
- Go bobbing for apples or carrots
- Stuff a KONG or lickimat
- Teach your dog new tricks
- Practice lead walking
- Teach your dog their toy’s names
- Practice agility in the garden
1. Search games 🕵️♂️
Spaniels have a history of being working dogs. They were bred to work alongside people to hunt, and have since been used alongside the police to smell for drugs and explosives.
You can put their nose to work with search games.
For example, get an old blanket and spread some treats across. Fold the edges and roll up (like a wrap), and give the command “find it”.
Or, hold your dog in another room and spread treats around the room you’re in. You can hide them behind the sofa, under blankets, or inside their toys. When they come back in, they’ll get a sensory overload, and learning what the command “find it” means: treats!
This type of nose work is enriching for them, and bound to tire them out.
2. Go bobbing for fruit 🍏
It can feel devastating if you’re stuck inside, or limited to one exercise per day, when the weather is beautiful.
However, you and your pup can still make the most out of the weather in the back garden. Grab their water bowl and fill it with ice cold water. Then, chop up some:
- Frozen peas
…and throw them in the bowl. Your dog will have to think about how they can get the fruit out. And if they use their nose, it’s a superb way to cool them down! They’ll also get an extra boost of vitamins.
In fact, I recently did this with Hugo and he loved it:
3. Stuff a KONG or Lickimat 👅
Most Spaniels are huge foodies. You can use this to create fun games to keep them entertained in lockdown, especially with things like KONGs or Lickimats.
KONGs are round, bouncy toys that you can fill with delicious treats like pate, bananas, or cauliflower. And, you can buy a few KONGS, stuff them, and pop them in the freezer. It’ll make the insides last longer (and keep your pup entertained longer, too.)
Lickimats are flat pieces of plastic with grooves in. Similar to a KONG, you can spread toppings across the top of the Lickimat. Your dog needs to put in the work to get them out.
4. Teach your dog new tricks 🧠
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is a false statement. No matter whether your dog is 8 weeks or 8 years old, they’re still able to learn new things… Just like humans.
Use the extra time you’ve got at home teaching them new tricks, such as:
- Lie down
I’d recommend subscribing to the Dog’s Trust YouTube channel, which has tons of videos to help you teach your dog new things:
5. Practice loose-lead walking 🐕
You know the feeling: You’re walking your dog down the street and your arm almost pulls out from its socket. Spaniels have a strong urge to sniff and explore… Even when they’re on-lead.
This can make it hard to walk your dog. You’re being pulled in every direction by a Spaniel that can weigh up to 30kg.
We’ve already mentioned that dogs should be kept on their lead when you’re taking them for walks in lockdown.
It’s the perfect opportunity to practice your lead walking, and teach your pup to keep their attention on you when out in the big wide world.
You can practice loose-lead walking by positioning your dog on your right-hand side, holding the lead in your left. Use your right hand to drop a treat whenever your dog is in that position. Once they get the hang of that, start taking a few steps forward and do the same.
Don’t worry if they get distracted. As soon as they start to pull, stand still and don’t say a word. Reward again when they fall back into their position and their eyes are on you.
The aim is to reward your dog whenever they’re walking beside you without pulling on the lead.
6. Teach your dog their toy’s names 🎾
Obviously, dogs can’t talk in English. But they can understand it.
You can get your dog’s brain working, and teach them new things, by showing them the names of their toys. How many can they remember?
To do this, grab one of their toys and repeat the name of it. (For example, if you’re teaching “ball”, hold the ball in your hand.) When your dog looks at it, reward them–repeating the name when they do.
Once they’ve got the hang of this, place a few toys in a line and repeat the phrase. Reward them if they pick the correct toy out of the line-up.
Here are some examples that I’ve taught Hugo:
7. Practice agility in your garden 🐶
If you want to build a bond with your dog in quarantine, this is the perfect option.
Agility means encouraging your dog to jump over hoops, whizz through tunnels, and climb over see-saws–not to mention the running around they’ll do in between each activity.
The best part? You can pick up some cheap home agility equipment from Amazon, such as:
Agility is a great way to build some exercise into your dog’s routine if you’re unable to get their twice-daily walks. Not only that, but this type of training has been proven to help with obedience. They must listen to you, and follow your commands, in order to be rewarded!
Don’t go stir-crazy with your dogs in lockdown
We’re going through some scary times right now, there’s no doubt about it.
Struggling to keep our pets entertained, or understand what we’re allowed to do during the coronavirus lockdown, only adds to the current situation. Hopefully this guide alleviates some of that (and your pup’s) stress.
If you have any other ideas to keep dogs entertained during lockdown, we’d love to hear them ⬇️