Well, I have to say, 2020, has been one hell of a year so far.
How are you all holding up? I’m serious. This year will take a toll on all of us.
So instead of your usual case study that would be here. I’m going to put a few ideas out there to keep both you and your pets happy, safe and healthy.
Looking after you.
Look after yourself.
Take time to do something you enjoy and reduce your stress.
Exercise – at home, or on a walk. Just avoid the crowds of others out and about on the streets.
Talk – talk to others. Check in with friends and family. Use technology to stay in touch, Skype, Zoom, messenger or the humble phone call, text or email.
Minimise contact with others, and keep the social distance of 1.5m.
I’m a high-risk person – so I’ve been isolating at home. We are up to day 16 without leaving the house, except for our stupidly early (before sunrise) walks with the pups. But hey who’s counting 😉.
Commit to the new rules, and work them into your life to make the best of it. Time to read a book, catch up on study, change your business plans or goals, or even, maybe it’s the step you needed to consider the career change that’s been nagging at the back of your brain for a while now.
And as I always say when I sign off to my TAFE students, stay safe, wash your hands and don’t touch your face.
Looking after your pets.
Ok, this isn’t because I expect them to catch COVID. Its because their world has just changed too.
And, honestly, I expect to see some relatively serious separation distress come of this when people are able to return to their previous jobs/activities.
So, what can you do?
Set your pets up to succeed. Practice alone time still. It could be as simple as time in their crates, time outside while you are in, time inside while you are out, baby gates and separate rooms.
But make it a good thing for them. Give them things to do that they enjoy.
Time your practicing of these skills to align with when you are most likely to succeed.
Use enrichment – feed from enrichment toys, cardboard boxes, scatter feeds etc. Start at your pet’s skill level and increase the difficulty as their skills improve.
Do small training sessions every day. Teach basics behaviours, play home agility, start some husbandry training for cooperative care procedures. The sky’s the limit.
Getting a puppy?
OK, there are certainly pros and cons to this.
One big pro – you are there. You can manage their behaviour. Confine when needed, and provide appropriate outlets for chewing when they have chosen the wrong item. Toilet training should be a breeze 😉, well maybe not a breeze, but easier than the average as they will have extra supervision.
A big con though, will be the lack of socialisation with new people and dogs.
You cannot do this safely at the moment.
What you can do however, for puppies and even our current dogs, is expose them to many new novel things – at home in a safe and fun way.
Play dress ups. Where different hats, get a fake moustache, ski goggles etc.
Expose them to different equipment such as skate boards, brooms, mops, vacuums, umbrellas, wheelies bins, bikes, scooters, clippers, hair dryers, drills etc. There is an app called sound proof puppy that has awesome noises on it, and another called razor prank that simulates clippers really well.
Do proprioception tasks. Teach them to balance on a pillow, and move from sit to stand. Walk over cardboard boxes, crawl through cardboard boxes, step in and out of cardboard boxes, walk over short hurdles, step on and off the wire crate divider, walk through leaves, shallow water etc.
Take some time to get them comfortable in the car, even if you don’t have a final destination.
Small sessions focusing on teaching a car is a place to be calm and rest and that rewards happen will have huge benefit once we are able to return to normalcy. Adding engine noise, movement, a trip around the block and perhaps some scenic drives with windows cracked (not down), to allow for some visual and scent stimulation.
What else? Enrol in an online or virtual puppy school. I will be running puppy preschool for pups up to 6 months (with a max of 6 pups), using virtual Zoom rooms. We can see the puppies, interact with the people and guide you through the training of several behaviours. This classes will also be an outlet to openly discuss problems people may be having and trouble shoot to problem solve this.
Vet Visits during COVID19.
Vets will remain open. They have been deemed essential workers.
However, talk to your vet before you go. Many clinics will have changed their protocols and a number already have and those that haven’t, may end up required to switch to contactless curb side consultations etc.
This is aimed at keeping both you and the clinic staff safe and in good health.
What does a contactless consultation look like? This means that your pet, may be collected from your car by a staff member, transferred into the clinic with them to the veterinarian, and your pet’s consultation likely performed via telephone or video conference before being returned to you at the car.
Discuss with your vet if your pet’s vaccination comes due. Can it wait? Puppies no, adult dogs possibly.
Need to pickup regular medications? Phone first, and allow time for it to be made up ready for collection.
If your pet is likely to be anxious at the vet, especially without you there. Talk to your vet before your visit. They may be able to prescribe medications that may help settle the nerves.
You can also use species specific pheromones – feliway for cats, adaptil for dogs – sprayed into cat cage, or on a bandana or thundershirt/firm fitting t-shirt. Make sure you spray these products into the cage/on the bandana/thundershirt/t-shirt 15 mins prior to putting the animal in the cage or equipment on. When taking animals in cages, have a towel to cover it as well – this can help reduce their stress.
You can also use Zylkene capsules – ideally these need to be given daily for 3 days prior to the event, however, in an unexpected event, providing it is safe to pop something down your pets throat, you can give a triple dose before you go (check with your vet if you think your pet is vomiting, or may require sedation or anaesthesia – as fasting may be preferable).
One final thing to remember. It is thought that pets may be able to be “fomites” for COVID19. This means if they come into contact with the virus, it may stay viable on their coat etc for a short period of time. This is one of the reasons that dog parks were closed. It is important that if you or your family has shown any signs of illness, and your pet needs a vet visit, that vet staff are made aware.
They will likely wear further PPE, and your pet may require a bath as detergent deactivates the virus.
My works changes.
I have had to change how I work just as many of you have.
For TAFE, I am now working from home and delivering content online via a learning management program and zoom classrooms – to be honest its actually quite fun, and I love my morning and afternoon commutes – down the stairs and then up the stairs.
For ALLPETS, all face to face contact has been stopped. This includes puppy preschool and private sessions.
I have however made changes so that training can continue.
I am now running an online K9 manners course – self-paced with 12 months access, skype/zoom consultations, and virtual puppy preschool (pups up to 6 months) using zoom classrooms.
I am working on a cooperative care online course and others. I plan on having these up as soon as possible.
Stay safe everyone, wash your hands, don’t touch your face!