We are living in unprecedented times. The world feels unfamiliar, and in some ways downright scary. But still, we have responsibilities: Many of us are still going to jobs, or working remotely, caring for our human families, and keeping our four-legged loved ones safe too. While the world has changed, you may still be looking for ways to maintain a sense of normalcy for yourself and those around you. Finding safe outdoor adventures is one way to accomplish that.
TransPaw Gear’s owner and founder Joan Hunter Mayer covered some ideas for making indoor adventures fun and engaging in a blog post for her training business, Inquisitive Canine, so this post will be focused on finding fun in the great outdoors.
1. Follow Your Local and State Laws and Guidelines
While we can give you ideas, your first responsibility is to listen to your local authorities. Now is not the time to question their guidance! They have more information than you do. If you’re being told to maintain 6 feet from other humans, assume your dog should do the same! We don’t believe dogs carry the virus that causes COVID-19, but if the disease can be transmitted via surfaces, it’s wisest to be abundantly cautious and consider your dog a “surface.” So, no letting strangers pet your dog in the age of social distancing!
If local parks are closed, respect these limitations. Walk in your neighborhood instead, and maintain safe social distance by moving into the street (if safe) or the far edge of the sidewalk as needed.
2. Everything Old Can Be New Again
Even if the route is familiar to your dog, you can change it up by adding obedience and tricks practice to your routine. Consider cueing a sit-stay at every corner or working on loose-leash walking for a block at a time, if not more. You can even ask your dog to spin or play dead at every third mailbox!
The point is that your dog will cherish the time outdoors even if you’re on your same old neighborhood route, especially if you alter how you are on your walk. It doesn’t take much to bring novelty to your dog’s world.
3. New Places Can Also Be New!
If local guidelines and laws allow it, you can take this opportunity to explore new outdoor spots with your dog. Remember that even if your pup is rock-solid on obedience behaviors at your favorite park and around your neighborhood, those behaviors may need more work in unfamiliar places. Don’t be disheartened! This does not mean your training efforts have failed. It just means dogs don’t generalize especially well: They need to learn that the behaviors you like are not context- or environment-specific. You can teach this by going back to basics, rewarding desirable behaviors generously, and lowering your expectations at first. Work back up to fluency until your dog clearly “gets it”! It will be rewarding (pun fully intended) for both of you.
Bonus tip: Go easy on yourself!
This isn’t adventure specific, but it’s still incredibly important. Things are hard right now. Whether you’re sick or healthy, high-risk or low-risk, surrounded by family members or living with no other humans, you may be struggling right now. Perfectionism is an easy trap to fall into, and it can lead to way worse outcomes than those that result from social isolation, fear, and anxiety. What we wish most for you all is peace. If you can’t do any of what we said above, and you’re just making it through the day meeting your dog’s (and your own) basic needs, we want you to know you are doing great.
This is not the time for perfectionism or self-criticism. Do the best you can. Ask for help when you need it. While the world looks incredibly foreign and potentially scary to us humans, it’s important to know that our dogs are still thrilled by our very existence, and that is the most important thing we can give them!
We wish you peace, health, and comfort in the coming weeks and months. Please comment to let us know how you’re doing, or contact us to check in!