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Man’s Best Friend – How to Care for Your Dog While Self-Isolating

marlon brando, dog

Marlon Brando with pet dachshund. (Photo by Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

Besides the risk of repetitive strain injury caused by insistent tail-wagging due to the sheer excitement of having his human home around the clock (It’s a real thing. Google ‘Rolo the dachshund from Essex, UK’), there are other considerations when it comes to self-isolating and our canine companions.


In the frenzy of the past few weeks, you’d be forgiven for focusing on what you need in the event of isolation. But, it’s our responsibility to make sure our furry friends are looked after, too. So put down the toilet paper and start preparing for their health and comfort.

First up: supplies. 14 days worth will suffice (no panic buying in the squeaky toy isles, please). Food and any regular medication needs will have to be a priority then other precautions such as basic tick, flea and heart-worm treatments should be considered if overdue. Do also check that they have no annual vaccines outstanding and take the advice of your vet on when best to do these if needed. If your four-legged friend has any specialty dietary requirements now would be the time to make sure he has what he needs to avoid any unwanted tummy trouble down the line.


Image courtesy of @riotherussell

Lucky for him, he is blissfully unaware that there’s a global pandemic happening out there – jealous, much? All he knows is that he now has your 24/7 undivided attention, and is absolutely elated about it. What he might not understand is that walkies may now have to be less frequent and shorter than usual – which will depend on the government directive where you are (please check with your local authority). It’s likely that you will still be able to take your pup for a walk, but you will have to be extra vigilant when it comes to self-distancing.  So keeping a sensible distance from others (a minimum of two meters at all times), and also, avoiding any kind of contact between your pooch and others is advisable. Although it’s clear now that dogs cannot transmit the virus, it’s smart to avoid contact with others whilst we are still in this phase of understanding the virus and how it behaves. Don’t be afraid to politely and clearly say if your dog approaches another person, “Please don’t touch him, thank you”. As difficult as that will be for them to resist his natural charisma, it’s just the right thing to do, and they will understand.


We were thinking ‘potty’ – not sure what you were thinking? Our urban friends, especially those in apartment living, will still need to go outside to relieve themselves. Hopefully that’s still an option where you live. However, whilst there are tighter restrictions on outdoor’ing, you may have to temporarily re-train him to go potty inside. Sounds like a nightmare since you spent most of his early years teaching him not to go indoors, but contrary to the old saying, you absolutely can teach an old dog new tricks, and they are fast learners. You’ll essentially have to set up a doggy litter tray area, which could be on the balcony, in a guest room, utility space or guest bathroom. If space is limited, then a corner of the apartment will have to suffice. Newspapers, mainstream ‘pee pads’ and fake grass patches can all be used to help mark out a designated area.  It’s up to you then to then create a ritual to help him understand that this is socially acceptable right now. So, get him excited as if you were normally going for a walk – with leash and harness – then guide him to the area and use the familiar positive and encouraging ‘commands’ – you get the drift. He’ll soon understand from your expression, tone and body language that he won’t be getting in trouble this time. Of course this is all worse-case scenario but hopefully only temporary and then the (re)re-training can begin when it’s business as usual.

It goes without saying that hygiene should be the no.1 priority here. As dog owners we should be practicing excellent hygiene on the daily, but we will need to be extra careful in times like these.  The designated area will need to be cleaned maticulously as you do not want to make yourself or family vulnerable to other associated illnesses. Of course, if you also have small 2-legged creatures in the house, the designation of the safe-area is paramount, and they need to know that this is an absolute no-go space for anyone except doggy, mummy and daddy.  The overarching idea here is to stay healthy, people!


Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water after interacting with your pet and their items such as bedding and toys and taking a rain-cheque on any ‘kisses’ is essential during times of self-isolation. If you are sick with coronavirus then current advice recommends restricting contact with your pal – and any other animals for that matter, just like you would around people. Again, this is not because pets or other animals can become sick with the virus, but simply as a precaution as we just don’t know enough about this thing yet – so better to err on the side of caution always. If you are unwell and feel like you are unable to take care of him whilst recovering, speak to friends, family and neighbours and ask for support. If you have no-one close by, call your vet or local animal welfare group who will be able to help find a solution.

As well as medical and physical care, it’s important that we are tuned into our dogs mental state. They are sensitive souls and they may experience stress and even depression during these times. If you know him well, you’ll easily be able to pick up on any changes in mood, sleeping trouble, low appetite, anxiousness and being generally less playful and upbeat. There’s also a chance – depending on his nature – that he may become more susceptible to disruptive behaviors during these times. Read on to see how this can be remedied…


Image courtesy of @riotherussell

Just like us, dogs need mental stimulation. They can get bored, especially if unable exercise as much, and pent-up energy can have an adverse effect. Try to go the extra mile by bringing the fun to them. Until you can get back to your usual routine, introduce other forms of play such as working harder for treats and food, scent work and extra training. Swap out the regular food bowl and hide his biscuits around the home. He will have to really work hard for his dinner then. Learning a new trick is also incredibly mentally stimulating for him, not mention hours of fun for you. So, if you’ve always wanted him to roll over, hit up YouTube where you can find hundreds of great tutorials by respected dog trainers. Also, don’t forget to play! Throwing the ball whilst you are bashing away on emails, or playing chase around the apartment on your lunch break will be a much needed energy release for both of you. You can be as silly as you want – no-one’s watching, just wait until the conference call is finished. Finally, if he’s restless at night, try Spotify’s newly curated selection of podcasts created especially to help our furry friends relax –  ‘My Dog’s Favourite Podcast‘.

You’re both welcome.

Read this: Dial In: Podcast Recommendations for Self-Isolation

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