Isolation and Lockdown Life with Pets

Dalmatian dog snuggling in a homemade blanket

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. It’s a semi-proactive measure to (hopefully) stem the spread of COVID-19. Here’s what lockdown means for upcoming posts on the blog and our furfamily life behind the scenes. I’ve also included ideas for lockdown with pets, maintaining fun mental and physical stimulation for dogs, and links to other helpful resources for fellow pet owners.

Although the following post is COVID-19 focused, there will (unfortunately and inevitably) be other future epidemics and/or pandemics that affect pet owners. I’d originally planned to share this as a temporary post. I’ve since been encouraged by readers and friends to keep it active in case parts may someday be helpful to other situations. You can fast forward past this intro to the ideas and resources below. I’ll add pawnotes from the blog dogs with any major updates, lessons learned, or other useful information after the fact. Be safe, furfriends.

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’re briefly pressing pause on posting new recipes and crafts. Many of you, like us, have limited access to shop for ingredients or materials. Although we prepare our content well in advance, we don’t want to inadvertently be insensitive with new content during the lockdown period. 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. 
This doesn’t mean we’ll stop sharing photos of our doggone handsome selves on our social media. We all need a little extra encouragement to smile these days. Our family is 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. This 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.

There is no current evidence that dogs are at risk from COVID-19. Since they’re a mobile soft surface, advice to owners here is to treat them like a member of our bubble. That means full isolation with the rest of the household. 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 local neighbourhood. No pats and socially distanced, of course.

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. Fingers crossed.

Grocery stores are still operating, with restricted access and some stock issues (which will hopefully level out as panic buying subsides). Pet stores are providing non-contact home delivery. If all goes well, there shouldn’t be any major changes to the dogs current mixed feeding plan. We will likely have a few shortfalls in some of our supplements and treat ingredients, though. This will be due to supply chain disruptions into New Zealand and because many specialty suppliers are not open.

Creative Ideas with Limited Resources

Homemade Dog Food and Treats

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 and be extra cautious with introducing new foods. Now is not the time to need a vet visit for tummy troubles or allergies. Yikes! Our Pet Chef Help posts are a great starting point for treat making, as well as getting creative. Our Pet Chef Help board on Pinterest has links on common substitutions, if needed.

For those who are budget-conscious in this extra difficult time, we have a little good news. Some of our favourite treats are almost free. Unseasoned poaching liquid is my go-to stock/broth for making dog treats, but it also makes a great pupsicle or food topper 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.

Crafts and Creative Projects for Dog Owners

Right now, all of our non-essential stores are closed. This means no new craft supplies. Or anything other than food and medication, really. 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 DIY dog tug toys are easy crafts 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 also work well with scrap fabric or reclaimed materials. Old shirts are one of my favourite reclaimed fabric sources.

In the time since this post was shared, New Zealand has come out of Lockdown (and parts have gone back in and out again since). The blog has resumed its normal posting, but life is still far from normal and even more so for many of our furfriends around the globe. I’ve added a special post on how we made fabric face masks for our neighbours, friends, and families in case its helpful for any of you. It also includes fun ideas for matching your dog to your mask (or your mask to your dog!) and other accessory DIYs for those of you who could use a boost of creative fun to keep your spirits high.

Mental and Physical Stimulation for Dogs During Lockdown

Routine Changes

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. 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.

Lockdown with pets might come with the silver lining of being able to enjoy more time together. When (hopefully) life returns to normal, you will need to help your dog transition back to that routine as well. This may be even more difficult if your lockdown or isolation has you spending a lot more time together than you are otherwise able. 

Safe(er) Exercise Options

As noted above, fortunately, our dogs are still able to enjoy on-leash walks around our local neighbourhood. 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 and Interactive Playtime

Toys aren’t part of the essentials that our pet stores are delivering during lockdown. 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.

Mental Stimulation

Dogs need to exercise their brains as well as their bodies, and different dogs prefer different types and degrees of brain work. 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 Owner 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. Current issues might bring this to mind, but this is something that any pet owner should have in place no matter the situation.

Resources and Reference Information for Pet Owners

Please follow the directions of your local authorities. 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 and stay well, furfriends.

Quarantine, isolation, and pandemic lockdown life with per

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