Cover photo source: BRUNO CERVERA on Unsplash
We all have to go to work. Even when we’re stuck at home due to COVID-19. Some of us have four-legged furmily too, and we all know how bored and attention-seeking they can get when they’re forced to stay home and twiddle their paws all day, whether it’s because we’re busy telecommuting, or because it’s rainy season and pouring outdoors like it has been for the past week.
“What are you doing? Stop working and play with me!” – The writer’s own pooch
To buy yourself some peace of mind, ease your guilt for not showering your pooch with love every single waking minute of your life, and to ensure that Fido is happy and contented, here are some ways you can keep your dog entertained while indoors:
1. Play hide and seek
Source: Will Malott on Unsplash
Hide your dog’s favourite treats or toys and off it goes on a tail-wagging adventure! Place them all around the house, but do remember to keep track of these nooks and crannies if you’ve chosen to use tasty morsels — you wouldn’t want pests to be attracted to forgotten “treasures” left unfound!
A relatively easy indoor game that doesn’t require special equipment and provides you with enough time to sit down quietly and churn out some work, you can also reinforce your dog’s obedience training by practising its “sit” and “stay” commands while you’re hiding the goods.
But before using treats for your dog to seek, check that there are no pest baits (rat baits, ant baits) lying around as these contain flavourings that are attractive to dogs, not just to pests. As for the treat of choice, we recommend using a portion of its daily food dose (if its staple is dry kibble) to avoid overfeeding your dog.
Alternatively, if you intend to use a commercial treat, make sure to check if your dog is sensitive to any of the food ingredients in the treat. Proteins (chicken, beef, and other types of meat and meat byproducts) are the nutrients that trigger intolerance and allergies! In addition, commercial treats often contain flavourings, colourings, and preservatives, which may trigger an intolerance reaction or an allergic reaction. It is also important to note that many commercial treats have a high-calorie count and can contribute to obesity when fed excessively, so make sure you reduce their meal portion accordingly that day.
If you’re unsure and your dog has a known food intolerance or allergy, the safest treat to use is a homemade one that contains a single protein — one that you know from experience will not trigger a skin or bowel reaction.
2. Nose work toys
Much like hide and seek, nose work toys encourage, well, nose work — a positive, challenging activity that allows dogs to use their strongest natural sense in a way that’s fun and mentally and physically stimulating!
Nose work toys such as interactive dog puzzles or Kong toys can easily be purchased online or at your nearby pet shop, and all you have to do is to stuff them full with dog food or treats. While you type away at your keyboard, your dog will be clawing away at the toy for a while.
3. Tug of war
If you can afford to spare one arm, engage in some good ol’ tug of war with your dog! Almost every dog loves this old school game, and all you need is a resistant toy and some arm muscles.
Do ensure that your dog plays nice though, and avoid unintentionally encouraging aggressiveness or possessiveness by giving it what it wants when it displays aggressive behaviour such as growling. Instead, teach your dog to let go when asked and reward them for their good behaviour!
4. Use a lightweight ball to play catch
Not recommended for those whose house is filled with expensive vases or breakable decor, consider playing catch with your dog with a lightweight ball indoors! Great for those who have sufficient space indoors or own a small dog, you’ll only need to stay at your desk and repeatedly throw the ball. If your dog doesn’t fetch, you can train it to do so by encouraging it to come to you when it has the toy and rewarding it with plenty of treats when it does so!
5. Introduce a new toy
Just like us humans, our dogs can get bored with their old toys too. If it doesn’t seem to show any reaction or attraction to the toys it has at home, consider surprising it with a new one! It doesn’t have to be an expensive one either, because Fido will never know the difference anyway! So long as it’s new, it’s interesting and worth exploring to your pooch. You know your dog’s personal preference best as well, whether it’s more partial to soft plushies, bouncy balls, or rope toys, so make sure to take that into consideration when shopping.
To select a safe toy, avoid toys that are easily broken or dismantled if your dog has a history of swallowing objects. Vets will tell you that they often have to perform surgery to remove foreign objects from dogs, including toy stuffings and bells. We also recommend steering clear of toys that have a very strong chemical smell. Strong chemical smells may indicate the presence of toxic chemicals on the surface or inside the toy.
6. Let your dog catch bubbles
Finally, grab a bottle of pet-safe bubble solution the next time you’re on your pet supply run to the pet store if you don’t mind your floor getting a little sticky, or if you have a dog-proofed balcony! Alternatively, purchase it online and get an automated bubble-making machine while you’re at it — the constant blowing of bubbles will be sure to keep your pooch thoroughly entertained for a while.
Note: Pay careful attention to the ingredients of the pet-friendly bubble solution. Ordinary bubbles are often toxic to dogs!
The best solution for a happy, contented dog
Dog: “Is the hooman free yet?”
Cat: “No, sit down.”
Source: Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash
When keeping your dog entertained, try to choose 3-in-1 activities. This means activities that incorporate physical exercise, mental stimulation, as well as your participation. Don’t limit your pooch to self-entertaining activities; Fido needs your companionship too!
Don’t forget that your dog also needs outdoor activities. We know from personal experience that periodic changes in our environment can have a revitalising effect on our minds and bodies, so fresh air, new sights and sounds, and meeting up with his pals are as therapeutic for your dog as they are for you.
Even dogs that are unable to venture outside due to mobility issues, sick, or receiving palliative care need to spend time in the great outdoors! Just sitting outside for 20 – 30 minutes will have restorative benefits for them.
And while the level of exercise your dog needs depends on its age, disposition, and health condition, most dogs generally require about 30 minutes – 2 hours worth of physical activity daily. Consider bringing your pooch out for a short walk around the neighbourhood when you’re done with work if you can and if you notice that your dog is not getting sufficient exercise!
Bonus: Walking tips
- Remember to start with short walks or runs, then up the distance covered in small increments.
- To prevent heat stress and heat stroke, walk your dog early in the mornings or in the late evenings when the temperature is cooler.
- During the walk or run, make sure that your dog doesn’t lick or eat things on the ground as these may be contaminated with harmful bacteria and protozoa.
- When you get home, always clean your dog’s muzzle with a damp cloth and wash your dog’s paws, underside, and the area around the anus with tap water. Washing these areas will remove harmful chemicals or microbes that may have contacted the skin during the outdoor activity!
Consult your vet if you’re unsure how long and fast you should be walking, and remember to clean up after your pooch, bring along water, and adhere to safety rules if any. In light of the circuit breaker, make sure to keep a social distance of about 2m from others, avoid public surfaces such as benches, tables, and bins, always sanitise your hands before touching your dog, and give your dog a good wipe down from its fur to its paws before entering your home. Stay safe and stay active, everybody!
This article was written in consultation with Dr Lennie from The Animal Clinic.