So, things got real this week huh? It's not news that Maryland's Stay-At-Home Order stirred up new anxiety among the community this week. People are behaving differently, taking social distancing to heart.
There are less people out walking, less kids playing, dog owners no longer letting their pups approach others, and the outside world just feels more silent. There's a tension that lingers in the air.
Do you feel it too?
Although the health crisis is very real, I propose that while you do take the necessary precautions to prevent illness, that you throw the rest of your worries away.
Instead, you need to focus on making good use of your time, and your dog can help with that! Tap into the doggy mindset. Eat, sleep, love and play hard. It's time to get silly and have a little fun.
But first, let's get rid of that anxiety.
Grab an actual pen and paper, because this won't work on a computer screen.
Write down all of your worries surrounding the day. Just get it out of your brain.
Are you worried about getting sick? About what happens to your dog? Your family and friends? Money, groceries, and bills?
Write out your feelings. This is your space to brain dump. Done? Now write "NOT TODAY" all over it and cross it all out (with a red pen for extra drama)!
Crumple it up, and give it to your dog to shred. Goodbye worries! You might even crack a smile as you watch your dog excitedly turn that paper ball of worries into nothing but tiny little pieces.
Now with that’s out of the way, let’s focus on weaving lots of creative, fun moments into your day.
The same routine is probably getting old at this point. Time to add in a little variety. Here are 5 unique ideas to help spice up your day!
1) Walk in a new place and turn it into a playground.
Are you bored of walking the same route every day? Need a change of scenery? Trails too packed? Take a drive (and buckle up your dog!) to a new neighborhood. Or, walk there. You don't have to go far for a new view.
Breathe in the fresh air, let your dog sniff new scents and lead the way. Your pup will love crashing on every baby squirrel’s playtime and peeing on all the mailbox posts...while you sightsee and get inspired with some new gardening and house decorating ideas.
Try it out. It’s super fun to switch it up, especially if you watch your dog’s expression as you arrive at yet another new place. The joy on your pup's face is priceless. You might discover a new trail along the way or even make a new friend from 6 feet away.
The world is your playground. Find a tree stump? Practice the "paws up" trick on it (put front paws on the tree stump and hold the position).
Come across a few of those flimsy driveway reflectors all in a line? Here's your opportunity to guide your furbaby to weave through them like a true agility dog.
Just don't go dock diving into someone's pool. That probably won't go over too well!
2) Make a new dog toy out of old clothes.
These make the BEST dog toys.
Do you have pants you don’t need anymore? Tie knots in the pant legs and hide treats inside the pockets and holes. Give it to your dog to sniff out a little snack. Then just untie the knots and throw it in the wash as needed. Rinse and repeat!
Or, throw some kibble into a water bottle and put a sock over it. Super good sensory input - there's 2 different textures, the crunchy sound, and nose is working to sniff out the kibble.
Try taking a hooded sweatshirt and tie the hood into a knot. Braid the sleeves around the body of the sweatshirt. When you get to the bottom, tie the sleeves around the body of the sweatshirt to secure it. Bam! New tug toy. Or, hide food in the crevices and call it a food puzzle. Up to you!
You can also grab an old scarf and a blanket. Sprinkle kibble on the blanket. Roll it up and tie it with a scarf. Give it to your dog to sniff out the treats.
If you want to spend a little extra time creating something, here's a video on making a tug toy out of an old t-shirt.
3) Teach your dog a new skill or trick.
At the moment, Maryland’s stay-at-home order has no end date. Do you realize how much you can do with this time? How many new skills can you teach your dog?
How ridiculously awesome it will be to brag about your pup’s smarts to all of your friends and family? Pretty cool, I think.
Don't know where to start?
One of my favorite books is Clicking with Your Dog by Peggy Tillman. I remember the exact moment I bought this.
Piper was just a puppy, and I saw this book laying on the table at Bark!, now called Loyal Companion. I started training Piper with this book before coming across Puppy Kindergarten and First Grade classes at Your Dog's Friend.
Whenever I was bored and wanted to teach something new, this book was my go-to. Clear, easy to read directions and pictures to illustrate each step. You can't go wrong with this book!
4) Cook with your dog.
Simmer a bone broth, DIY your own dog treats, or dabble in a balanced home cooked meal for pup. Not a cook? Don't worry, you dog won't judge and messes are meant to be made.
Here are some easy treat recipes your dog can't wait to test out:
Are you more of a free spirit and can't be held back with a recipe? Go ahead and get creative!
But check this food chart for a list of foods your dog can and can't have. This was a frequently used resource when I cooked for Piper.
If you want to learn more about a balanced home cooked dog diet, check out these recipes on Pet Sage's website.
Food brings joy. Embrace it!
5) Do a doggy dance.
Have you ever heard of Doggy Dancing? There's evidently a whole World Championship on this! I don't know anything about this world championship, but here's what I do know: it looks FUN. Check this out! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41TxtpBK2ZY
Try picking out a good beat to jam to and choreographing some moves for you and your pup. After all, what else are you going to do while you stay at home for the next month or so?
Here's something to get you started:
Or, just throw out all the dance moves and have a dance party with your fur baby.
Will your dog like the Electric Slide or Cotton Eyed Joe?
These ideas were certainly out of the box, but that's the point. Search for something fun and silly to do each day. Laugh, relax, and spend time with your furball.
It's so easy to get caught up in the media, in all the worry and fear wrapped around the world today. Whether we're facing a world health pandemic or a tough day at work, don't forget to make time for a little joy. Moving forward, regardless of what lies ahead, you have the ability to make each moment count.
You get to decide if the Stay-at-Home order is doing to bore you to tears or if it’s going to be the best time of your life. Your dog is your sidekick in all of this.
As a pet parent, you always wish for more time home with your dog. Less work, more play. More doggie snuggles and playing fetch in the yard. This is your time. Make the most of it.
Get creative, get silly, and just look at your dog’s face every time you need a little inspiration to put yourself back on track.
That’s why dogs are here on Earth - to bring joy to the people they love. So this week, bring an extra element of joy to theirs, and live to the very fullest. You got this.