Exercise is an essential activity for you and your dog during COVID-19, but you also need to keep social distancing in mind. Here’s how.
Because my dogs aren’t great with other canines, I’ve been social distancing with them on walks since well before the pandemic began. During that time, I’ve learned techniques that help me maintain a safe distance from others – techniques that are especially useful right now as we try to get our outdoor exercise in while keeping a distance from others.
1. Find the best time to walk your dog
Most great walking spots, like great restaurants, tend to have “peak” hours. So plan to head to your favorite spot during “off hours” when fewer people and dogs are about. For example, early in the morning or later in the evening.
2. Use the right tools to help manage your dog
Use a regular leash that is five or six feet long, instead of a retractable leash. This will give you more control over your dog, making it easier to prevent any unnecessary contact with other dogs and their people. And always carry treats, so it’s easier to get your dog’s attention if you need to!
3. Politely decline greetings from other dogs and people
Greeting other dogs on walks really isn’t necessary, even though it used to be the norm for many people. According to Laura Pakis, owner and founder of Acme Canine, Europeans don’t encourage dogs to greet each other or their people when they’re out and about. “Their dogs learn this at a young age, so when they walk past a person or other dog, they don’t automatically pull to be greeted.” With this in mind, it’s okay to tell other dog walkers that your own dog “isn’t greeting other dogs today”, and cross the street.
4. Use the pandemic as a training opportunity
Does your dog typically jump or lunge toward other dogs while on walks? Try using social distancing as an opportunity to play the “look at me” game with your dog. When you’re about a block away from another dog on a leash, ask your dog to look at you for a treat. This is a great distraction, and you can then cross the street and call, “We’re training, good to see you!” and go on your way.
5. Reduce stress in you and your dog
If you’re feeling anxious about social distancing on your walks, your dog may pick up on it and start feeling stressed too. Yawning or lip-licking are subtle signs of canine stress. You want to enjoy your walks together, so reduce your own stress by having a plan in place, and take some time to breathe and relax before you head out the door.