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Maintaining a Healthy Routine for your Dog



Many studies show that routines are healthy for human beings when it comes to managing stress and sticking to lifestyles that support good health. Regular exercise and regular eating are important building blocks to our health; the same is true for dogs. With the coronavirus pandemic, all of our schedules have changed drastically. We asked some of our experts for tips on how to establish a healthy routine for your pup during this time.

Stick to an Eating Schedule

While you might be shuffling off to the kitchen every hour to snack, resist the urge to indulge your pup at the same time. Stick to their regular meal schedule and avoid too many treats. If your dog is getting more exercise than usual, whether it be solo backyard time or walking time with you, consult your vet on how much extra food to add at meal times. Treats are more like junk food and if your dog needs more calories, they should get them from regular food.

Incorporate Regular Exercise

You may find yourself with extra free time for longer walks or even trail runs, or perhaps your dog has a SpotOn Virtual Fence and can run freely in the backyard. Whatever the case, try to create a regular schedule that you stick to on most days so your dog knows what to expect. If you have the time, take a long walk in the morning, let him out for a free run in your backyard mid-day, and then take a short ‘look around’ walk at night. 

Add Mental Stimulation

If your dog normally goes to doggy daycare or a dog park, they are going to be missing that socialization. “There are no real substitutes for socialization with other dogs; we are different species and we humans do not communicate primarily with our noses and through reading subtle body language cues,” says SpotOn dog trainer, Rick Alto. Mental stimulation can help alleviate some of the boredom, and the good news is that your dogs probably spend most of their day at home sleeping, so mental stimulation time doesn’t need to be as long or involved as it would be for a human. 

“Mental stimulation is extremely important and will actually tire out your pup,” Rick Alto continues. “Puzzles or challenges that your dog can solve are awesome ways to get your dog mental stimulation.” Order some mental stimulation toys like a Kong or West Paw’s Toppl Toy so your dog can puzzle over how to get his treat on his own. Become your dog’s play partner by taking 15 minutes at lunch or the end of the day to play a dog backyard game. They are fun, great exercise (for you, too) and reinforce training concepts.

    “Puzzles or challenges that your dog can solve are awesome ways to get your dog mental stimulation."

    Prevent Separation Anxiety

    If your dog is used to staying home alone all day or spends a good part of the day in his crate, you will want to maintain a schedule of crate time during this period. Remember what they were like when you first trained them? Most likely, you started with shorter periods and built up to longer periods. If you go for weeks or months with no crate time, you may have to go through that training period again (though it will likely take less time, since they aren’t a puppy). So put the crate somewhere away from you and be sure to have your dog spend at least part of the day there. If you don’t crate your dog usually, then place the crate in a mud room or bedroom away from others. Most dogs sleep for hours a day, so being crated is not a punishment. It’s quiet time for them, and their own private space. Be aware that separation anxiety may become an issue one you return to work, too. Rick Alto weighs in: “Dogs thrive on structure, routines and schedules, [and] can be thrown for a loop when there are drastic life changes. In this case, the life changes of you being home all the time is a great thing; however, it could lead to significant issues with separation anxiety when you go back to work without warning. Negative behaviors may surface due to your dog’s confusion.”  

     “Dogs thrive on structure, routines and schedules, [and] can be thrown for a loop when there are drastic life changes. In this case, the life changes of you being home all the time is a great thing; however, it could lead to significant issues with separation anxiety when you go back to work without warning. Negative behaviors may surface due to your dog’s confusion.”  

    Maintain a Business Schedule

    Another advantage to keeping to a crate or alone time schedule is ensuring your dog can ‘hold it’ for longer periods. Crate training is part about the mental training, but it’s also physical. If you let your dog out every half hour right now but keep them in a crate for 6-8 hours once you return to work, you may find you have to start with shorter periods to ensure he can hold it. 


    Adding Fun Lifestyle Changes

    That said, this is the time to offer some lifestyle options you normally cannot. Think of it like vacation fun things! Add these in a few times a week if you cannot offer the option after you go back to work.

    Let Your Dog Roam the Backyard Freely

    Dogs love to sniff, explore, and observe nature. Let him out in your backyard to run while you work inside. If you don’t have a physical fence, the SpotOn Virtual Fence can be up and running in a short amount of time. The training can be done in quick 15-minute intervals over a few days. This will enable your dog to have the freedom to run and explore while you work inside. The bonus is that once you go back to work, you can offer this type of time since your dog will be reliably trained to the containment system.

    Take a Hike

    While observing social distancing, take your dog for a hike on the weekend when you have more time. Just be sure to consult your vet as to how far and how steep your dog can go and how to work up to a longer hike. Some breeds are more suited to hiking than others. Also, if your dog is a couch potato, start off slow. Jumping right in with a 6-mile climb on the first day could cause injury. 

    Go for a Run

    Another advantage to keeping to a crate or alone time schedule is ensuring your dog can ‘hold it’ for longer periods. Crate training is part about the mental training, but it’s also physical. If you let your dog out every half hour right now but keep them in a crate for 6-8 hours once you return to work, you may find you have to start with shorter periods to ensure he can hold it. 

    Get in Training Time

    Does your dog come every time you call him – even when there’s a squirrel or a stinky treat standing in the way? If not, this is the time to work on basic training. The foundational skills can save your dog’s life! See our videos on the basics: Sit, Stay, Come, Leave It.

    If a dog goes to a dog park or daycare and you can't safely continue with those activities while maintaining social distancing, substitute structured activities and basic obedience training,” Rick says. “Just keeping a dog busy, challenged, and motivated will give them an outlet to drain energy and challenge their minds and bodies.”

    How has your dog been faring during this time of social distancing? Have you found the time to try any new games, or found yourself bonding with your pooch in new ways? Let us know in the comments below!


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