Monday, 30 March 2020
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Isolation and Lockdown Life with Pets

Hibernating? Us too, and it's  not just the onset of our cool, wet, autumn weather. If you're following us on social media or are a fellow kiwi furfamily, you'll already know that New Zealand implemented a nationwide lockdown last week as a proactive measure to (hopefully) stem the spread of COVID-19. Here's what that means for upcoming posts on the blog, our furfamily life behind the scenes, ideas for maintaining a fun mental/physical stimulation for dogs, and links to other helpful resources for fellow pet owners 

Upcoming Blog Posts and Social Media Shares

I've thought a lot about our pre-prepped blog posts, and have decided to temporarily disrupt the schedule. We are going to briefly press pause on posting new recipes and crafts, since many of you, like us, have limited access to shop for ingredients or materials. Tempting our readers with new ideas would be mean. Don't worry! There are already tons of fun ideas already in our archives that you can play with to occupy some of your home time and keep the furkids entertained and well supplied with treats. Check out some of our ideas below!

This doesn't mean we'll stop sharing photos of our doggone handsome selves on our social media, as we all need a little extra encouragement to smile these days. We and our humans are safely together at home, and will do our best to keep your spirits a little higher by continuing to share a little levity. 

Our Furfamily Lockdown Life Behind the Scenes

New Zealand is currently on Alert Level 4 nationwide, which means that everyone in the country has been asked to stay home unless undertaking essential work that cannot be done remotely. You can find all of our government's updates and information on their Unite Against COVID-19 website

Fortunately, we are still permitted to undertake solitary exercise close to home, so the dogs are still able to get out for on-leash walks around our neighbourhood. There is no evidence that dogs are at risk from COVID-19, but since they're a "soft surface" the advice to owners here is to treat them like a member of our bubble for isolation with the household. This means no play dates outside the bubble, walkies on leash, and no pats from passers by. 

Oli's vet has provided us with enough of his medications to see us through the initial four weeks of lockdown. Vets are essential services, so we should be able to collect refills similar to the restricted services available at human pharmacies, as long as there are no supply issues. Grocery stores are still operating, with  restricted access and some stock issues (which will hopefully level out as panic buying subsides) and our pet stores are providing non-contact delivery.  If all goes well, there shouldn't be any major changes to the dogs current mixed feeding plan. We will, unfortunately, have a few shortfalls in some of our favourite supplements and treat ingredients as some of our speciality suppliers are not open.

Creative Ideas with Limited Resources

If you have limited access to groceries and/or your local shops are struggling with stock, you may not have the ingredients for your favourite treat recipes. Bummer.  Our homemade dog treat recipes use a wide variety of ingredients, so you might be able to find a new recipe to try with available dog treat ingredients. You can also get creative with substitutions and create your own unique experimental recipe! Make sure that you are using dog safe ingredients. Our Pet Chef Help board on Pinterest has links on common substitutions.

For the budget conscious, some of my favourite dog treats are essentially free. Unseasoned poaching liquid is my go-to stock/broth for making dog treats, but it also makes a great pupsicle on it's own. For a homemade bone broth (for pets or people), scrap bones can be saved in the freezer until you have enough to simmer. 

Right now, all of our non-essential stores are closed. This means no new craft supplies. If you have a crazy craft stash (like me), this is a great incentive for organising materials and doing some stash busting crafts.  There are lots of different DIY and craft ideas in our archives, many of which you can do with supplies already in your craft stash (if you have one) or by using repurposed or recycled materials. If you're looking to keep idle hands busy, woven fleece tug toys are an easy craft that can then be used for interactive play. Win win! If you don't have fleece material, old blankets or clothing may be suitable for repurposing. Materials should be clean and sturdy, and avoid fabrics that shed threads as these can be particularly dangerous. Treat bags, bandanas, and other small projects work well with scrap fabric or reclaimed materials. Old work/dress shirts are one of my favourite reclaimed fabric sources.

Maintaining Fun Mental/Physical Stimulation for Dogs During Isolation/Lockdown

Shifting to lockdown can be a major disruption in your home routine, and dogs like routine. With the exception of essential service households, suddenly the humans are around a whole lot more but they may also be busier than usual during home time due to work and/or homeschooling.  If possible, adjust and establish a new routine that you and the dogs can look forward to together.

As noted above, fortunately, our dogs are still able to enjoy on-leash walks around our local neighbourhood. There is no evidence that dogs are at risk from COVID-19, but since they're a "soft surface" the advice to owners here is to treat them like a member of our bubble for isolation with the household. This means no play dates outside the bubble, walkies on leash, maintaining distance, and no pats from passers by. 

Toys aren't part of the essentials that our pet stores are delivering during lockdown, but hopefully your toy box is already well supplied (or you can try giving it a DIY boost). Remember to play safe, ensure toys are well-suited to your pet, in good condition, and keep them clean on a regular basis. Rotating access to toys can help make old toys more exciting again. Getting into more interactive play with your dog is also a great way to boost the fun factor. Whether it's playing with toys or other playful activities, having fun together helps to strengthen your relationship. Playtime is great for engaging the brain too.

Dogs need to exercise their brains as well as their bodies, and different dogs prefer different types and degrees of brainwork. Continuing training with reinforcement of learned commands and fun new tricks is great for mental stimulation but so is problem-solving oriented enrichment such as scent games, treasure hunts, puzzles, etc. 

In addition to mental stimulation, for an older dog, like Oli, training time can also be a good for physical well-being. Working through commands can encourage gentle stretching, movement, and muscle use. Training time "doga" senior stretches have been a part of our routine for several years now with Oli. He still loves it, as does Humphrey. 

Being Prepared for Possible Illness

I sincerely hope that all of our readers and their loved ones stay well, but emergencies are always a good reminder to double check our family plans and preparations.  Ensure that you have a care plan for your pets in the event that you are unable to care for them at home.

Resources and Reference Information for Pet Owners

Please follow the directions of your local authorities, and we urge you all to stay home where possible, stay kind to one another, and support the many workers who continue to work essential jobs keeping us secure, supplied, connected, and (hopefully) well. Be safe.

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