With South Africans asked to stay at home during the national lockdown, some pet owners may feel overwhelmed with being confined to their homes but also trying to keep their pets entertained during this period. Sadly, we have not been given permission to take our dogs for their much-anticipated walks or runs at the park but there are ways to keep our bored pooches entertained during the lockdown.
FYI – This article mainly focuses on activities to keep our dogs stimulated during lockdown but that is not to say cat owners can’t adapt some of these exercises for their feline friends.
Activity 1 – Basic Obedience training
Many pet owners miss out on opportunities to train their dogs and believe you have to go to a training school in order to have well-behaved pets. This is actually not true and although we always advise owners to be careful when sourcing information, there are actually many online resources (e.g. YouTube) instructing pet owners on how to train their pets in basic obedience and/or good manners at home.
Regardless of whether your pet has already been taught the basics or if they are starting from scratch, keeping your dog mentally active with training can be just as rewarding as going for a walk.
Here are some basic obedience ideas to play with your pet. Teach your dog to:
- STAY in position (mentioned above) for 5, 10, 20, 30 seconds (increase the time they need to stay as a start to understand what they are being asked to do).
- HEEL (walking next to your left leg as close as possible).
You might ask how do I train my dog to do these things? Well, it is not as difficult as you think, you will just need some of your dog’s favourite treats and reward them every time they are successful at what you are asking them to do.
Bonus Tip – The treats you reward your pet with do not have to be anything special. Set aside some of your pet’s breakfast and use this kibble when rewarding him or her.
Remember to be patient and have fun at all times!
Activity 2 – Hide & Seek in the house or garden
One of our favourite games to play is Hide & Seek! This game allows our dogs to use different senses (e.g. smell, hearing) and expends some of their excess energy. This game can be played in a variety of ways:
- Hide your pet’s kibble in different areas of the house or garden and then let them go hunting for their food.
- Show them their favourite toy, hide it and then let them find it. After they find it have a fun game of tug with their toy!
- Get another family member to distract your dogs and then you go and hide somewhere in the house or garden (e.g. behind a door or couch or maybe in a dark room). Call them and let them find you!
Bonus tip – start off easy. Hide their treats/toys/you in an easy place to start. Once they get the idea of the game, start making it more difficult!
Activity 3 – Frozen or filled kongs or similar
Are you working from home but the dogs keep nagging you to play with them? Why not give them a Kong filled with their favourite treat to keep them busy?
For this activity, use the classic Kong or Rogz Yumz toy and fill them with some tinned food from the pet store or vet (e.g. Hill’s Perfect Weight tin or Prescription i/d or metabolic). Alternate fillers you can use include plain yogurt or peanut butter (always check it does not use ingredients like Xylitol).
Bonus tip – To keep your pets busy for longer, freeze the toy with the filling the night before!
Activity 4 – Make an Agility or obstacle course
Similar to training your dog obedience, playing a game where your dog has to do an agility/obstacle course, not only stimulates their minds but keeps their bodies active! Here are some key elements and ideas for your course:
- Jumps – use garden chairs or empty plastic pot plants from your last trip to the nursery as side wings to hold up a broomstick (crossbar). Ask your pet to jump over them.
- Tunnel – use empty cardboard boxes and open two opposite sides to allow your pet to run through.
- Dog Walk – use a plank of wood placed on bricks low to the ground and ask your dog to walk over the plank.
This also gets you to think out the box and find things from around the house you can use to make a safe and fun obstacle course for your pets.
Bonus Tip – Use your pet’s favourite toy or treats to entice/motivate them on the obstacles.
Activity 5 – Good old fashion FETCH!
If all else fails, don’t forget that there is always an opportunity to grab your pet’s favourite toy and play a game of fetch. It’s simple, fun and a good way to expend some energy!
Although these activities have been recommended to keep your pet occupied during the lockdown, there is no reason they cannot be played at any other time! Plus, if you have “human” kids at home, get them involved with your pets and keep everyone occupied during lockdown!
NB! Please remember to always keep your pet’s safety in mind with any game you play.
#staysafe #stayhome #playwithyourpet