Due to my husband and I’s recent move, it actually feels like we’ve been in quarantine with our dogs since December. When we left our home with a backyard in the Midwest to move to an apartment in Orange County, we planned to make up for their loss of space with hikes and dog beach trips, and lots of adventure. Unfortunately, the move was very stressful for them and Coop’s fear and anxiety got so bad we were nervous to expose her to any more new things.
As a result, we’ve been spending lots of time at home, walking around our neighborhood, and exploring how to keep both dogs mentally stimulated at home. We are happy to report that after trying medication, Coop does seem back to her old self, but of course, now we really are trapped at home. Here are a few ways we’ve found to keep busy!
I will be the first to admit that I can let training slide to the back burner with our two dogs, but shelter-in-place orders have given me the motivation to get back at it. I use the Dogo app to teach Coop and Fidus new tricks and practice the ones they know.
Cooper has learned “relax” and “peek-a-boo” during this shelter-in-place time, and Fidus has finally figured out what “down” means without the hand motion — it’s recommended to use both a verbal command and a hand signal for dogs when training so that they will respond/understand both. I’m hoping to teach them “Place” soon along with many more!
2. Fetch (yes, even indoors!)
If you have a backyard, you are a step ahead. Head out there and play a game of fetch, or if your dog doesn’t play fetch, try running around with them to get them some exercise.
If you don’t have a backyard, you can still play fetch indoors so long as your dog is careful. Our border collie Cooper is obsessed with fetch, but her behavior issues from the move have made it impossible for us to take her to a dog park to play like she used to. And now since we don’t have a backyard, we have taken to playing fetch indoors.
We find a longer, clear area of the apartment (like tossing the ball from one room into the bedroom) and very carefully toss it or roll it for Coop to chase. Nothing has broken yet, so we’ve found it to work for us and her.
3. Sunbathe on the Patio/Balcony/Backyard
While Cooper never much enjoyed hanging out in our backyard without us, Fidus did. He loves soaking in the sun and the sounds of the outside world. Moving to an apartment has been hard on him and now with shelter-in-place his world is further limited. We’ve begun sitting out on our patio with him during lunchtime. It overwhelms my heart with joy to see him lay down in the sun so content and happy.
Our patio has a low wall that I fear he could jump, so sadly we can’t just leave the door open for him without supervision. When we are out there, I also keep him on a leash since the patio opens up to a courtyard where lots of people bring their dogs to do their business. I don’t fully trust him not to leap over the barrier and give some folks a scare.
If you have a backyard, even better, as your dogs can hang out in the outdoors as they please. I highly recommend you spend some time out there with them as you need some sunshine, too!
If you don’t have any of these opportunities to get outside, perhaps you can take a walk to a nearby park (if any are open near you) and relax for a bit with your pup on a blanket to get some sun and outdoors time in.
4. Walk Around the Neighborhood
This is something you probably already do with your pup, but perhaps you can extend your walks a bit (if your dog is up for it) now that you may have more time on your hands. It’s a great way to get some fresh air and some exercise and it’s safe so long as you give others space.
If you have a reactive dog, for example, our dog Fidus loves other dogs in daycare settings but can be aggressive when he meets them on a leash, be mindful that a lot more people are out walking their dogs right now. You may want to bring some treats or walk at less popular times if you know your dog might get anxious or overwhelmed by the number of people or dogs out.
5. Walk to a Trail or Park
Depending where you live, local parks and trails may be closed or have their parking lots shut down. If you live near a park or trail that is in walking distance, perhaps extend your walks once a week to that nearby spot. A change of scenery will do you and your pup well.
6. Puzzle Games / Hide & Seek
Your dog may be starved for mental stimulation (like the rest of us starting to get burnt out from being stuck at home). While many people have begun to pick up new hobbies, you can help your dog by using a puzzle feeder or a puzzle toy. Of course, it depends on your dog’s personality if they like it or not. Our dog Cooper is too smart for her feeder while our dog Fidus doesn’t understand it nor does he try to understand it.
Puzzle toys/feeders cost money, but a free alternative is to hide a beloved toy (in our case we hide a tennis ball) and then ask your dog to find it. I usually grab the ball from Coop, ask her to sit and stay, and then hide it in another room before asking her to “find it!” She loves it and it keeps her busy.
If you are local to Orange County, CA, and want to order a puzzle game/feeder, before ordering from Amazon, check out these open local pet businesses.
7. Dog Photoshoot
This might be more fun for you than your pups unless lots of treats are involved! Use a sheet or construction paper to create a backdrop for the shoot. Use stuffed animals or holiday decorations to create a theme for the shoot and for use as props. If you don’t have a camera, your phone will certainly do to take photos. Ask your dog to sit or lay down in front of your set up and give them lots of treats to mark their behavior. Then snap away!
Check out our Pet Photography Tips blog for more ideas!
8. Learn How to Groom
Our dog, Fidus, has a really thick coat and he is in the midst of shedding it. Our apartment has been a total disaster since. He has also developed quite a smell. We usually get him groomed once a month at Dogtopia and he also has a day of daycare so he can socialize with other dogs. The day before his March appointment, our Dogtopia closed due to shelter-in-place orders.
We lasted maybe a couple of weeks before we realized we were going to have to take matters into our own hands and into the bath he went. His thick fur was difficult to permeate with dog shampoo though and it was even worse to try to dry out (towels and a blow dryer weren’t enough). I think we actually made matters worse, but there’s no better time to learn and improve on properly washing your dog, trimming their nails, brushing their teeth, and giving them haircuts (depending on their breed).
If you’re struggling though like we are, you can also check out our list of Open Pet Businesses in Orange County to find an open groomer.
9. Tik Tok Challenges
I absolutely believe that a new social media platform will soon arise as young people desperately flee Tik Tok (in the same way we all abandoned Facebook and Twitter when our parents and corporations created accounts). That said, now that we are all embracing the new platform thanks to boredom, there are so many fun ways to involve your dog! Pet Vlogs are currently trending as is #PetLife and you can certainly include your pets in an indoor workout video or a challenge. See Fidus’ recent #LevelUpChallenge below!
10. Cuddle and Enjoy This Time Together!
It is so easy to get down and anxious about everything going on in the world right now. One of the few benefits of shelter-in-place, though, is spending so much time with our pets! While we need to be sure our pets still get their space and “me time,” be sure to treasure any extra moments you may have with them at home.