Supporting Your Dogs Through Covid-19
There are some really simple things you can start doing straight away to support your dogs through the Covid-19 situation that we are all being engulfed by at the moment. There are also a lot of little things you can be doing to support yourself, as ultimately our dogs pick up on our anxious energy and concerns, and of course our behaviours have a significant impact on theirs.
So I’ve put some tips and advice together on lots of different ways you can make sure you support your dogs and yourself during this unsettling period, to reduce stress and promote emotional wellbeing for you all.
Start giving your dogs a herbal anti anxiety supplement. The positive impacts of this can start building up over the coming weeks and help PREVENT the escalation of stress hormones, which of course is way better than trying to reduce them once your dog is already stressed.
There is a LOT of anxiety, stress and worry for everyone at the moment and our dogs will be picking up on this energy. Providing them with some additional emotional support can be a small thing that although isn’t going to solve any major anxieties it can help them feel a bit more resilient alongside other things we can put in place to support them.
Things like Bachs Flower Rescue Remedy, Dorwest Herbs Valerian and Scullcap or Nutracalm can all help our dogs feel a little less affected by concerns and anxieties they may be experiencing.
Stick to your usual routine as much as possible. Most Romanian dogs feel more safe and secure and less stressed when they know what’s happening and when. Of course life can’t always be routine, but at the moment, the less uncertainty they experience the more likely they are to cope with everything that’s changing and happening around them. Stick to meal times, walk times, walk locations (as much as possible) and any activities that usually take place at home on a regular or daily basis.
Increase enrichment activities and get the family involved. One of our Facebook group members recently shared AniEds 100 days of enrichment, which is a fantastic idea not only for our dogs during this period but also for us and our families.
This would be a great resource to get your children involved with, to teach them more about the animals they share their home with and a really fun interactive way for them to play together. It’s also a fabulous way to help prevent boredom for both dogs and kids and can be modified to other household animals too! You could even share your inventive enrichment creations with the Facebook group to inspire others with your ideas.
Give your dogs space breaks if everyone is at home. You know yourself how you can feel like ‘Urrrrgh I love my kids but I could really use a break for a bit!’ (or is that just me???) well our dogs can sometimes feel the same. Be sure to remain aware of times where your dogs might look like they could do with some peace and quiet away from everyone, or at least somewhere they’re not in the thick of everything.
Do regular daily mini training game/play sessions. The majority of dogs LOVE IT when we get out our clickers and have impromptu mini training sessions. This can be functional training or simply fun tricks, to them it’s all the same. These don’t need to be for long, 5 minutes dropped in here or there can make a huge difference to your dogs emotional well being, resilience and ability to relax.
- When we do training games with our dogs it helps give them something to focus on ‘doing.,’
- It helps tire their minds which in turn helps them to feel less anxious and more ready to settle
- It promotes confidence, I mean who doesn’t love to hear a ‘Yesssss!’
- Most dogs really enjoy the intense interaction with us when we do trick training with them!
- Keep your training at a level that your dog finds relatively easy and only increase challenges very gradually (the last thing we want is our dogs getting stressed or feeling frustrated from their training/game session)
- Always tell your dog when your mini training sessions are finished – I just say ‘finished!’ and hold my hands up. Sometimes our dogs love these interactions with us so much (and the treats of course!) that it can actually be mildly aversive for them when we suddenly walk away and end the interaction. A bit like we might feel if we were having a lovely conversation with someone and then they simply walked off.
Have daily massage/TTouch sessions with your dogs. Again these don’t need to be for long 10 minutes or so, although I usually find they last longer than I intended because we both enjoy them so much! You don’t even need to know how to massage properly, just be sure that your dog is enjoying the interactions as not all Romanian dogs enjoy lots of touch and some can be very touch sensitive.
Think about spending some time doing touch consent tests to really get to know your dogs at a deeper level and how they communicate to you the things they like and don’t like. It can be very eye opening. Share your videos with us in the private Facebook group so we can all learn from each other’s experiences. You can find a video demonstration about doing a touch consent test HERE
Play calming music. There are lots of calming music options available on Youtube, personally I find the most effective to be the Solfeggio frequencies. There are different frequencies that you can experiment with and if you are in my private Facebook group, you can find links to a selection of these in the learning units.
Think ahead to what you might need. Set aside an hour to fully assess your personal situation and think ahead to anything you might need in place if you do become poorly. Some suggestions to consider might be:
- Who will take care of your dog if you can’t (not a pleasant thought I know, but at least if you have a plan you can stop worrying about it)
- Do you have the type of dog that will cope with not being walked?
- Are you in the kind of environment where you can provide them with alternative activities and exercise?
- Would you need to enlist the help of a friend or family member to walk your dog for you if you get sick?
- Would your dog be happy going for a walk with that person?
- Do you need to find someone to help you with walks if you don’t have anyone available
- If your dog isn’t great with strangers, you will need to put some time aside to ask your helper to come on walks with you so your dog can get used to them being around. Have them meet you at your door so you can recreate the scenario of them ‘coming to pick your dog up’ After a few walks you may want to give your helper the lead so they are walking your dog and you are accompanying. You may want to have your helper feed your dog super tasty treats while you walk away from them, to help them feel more comfortable and relaxed about going off with a stranger. You may need to do this very gradually, building up the distance.
If You or a Family Member Get Sick. If a family member becomes poorly try to give your dog regular breaks and time separate from that person as long as this isn’t something that’s going to stress them out. Our Romanian dogs can be very affected when family members are ill, especially when it’s they’re ‘favourite’ person.
When we are unwell it can make us ‘feel’ funny to our dogs, they know something is not right but don’t understand what. They feel the change in energy and it can make them anxious. It can even result in them showing resource guarding behaviours toward people who come near us, which of course is not a great situation to be in!
Provide them opportunities to get relief from these feelings and experiences so it doesn’t create a build up of anxiety that can leave our dogs feeling ‘on edge.’ Of course I’m not saying stay away from your dogs if you get sick, I’m simply saying be mindful of what they’re communicating and any signs they give that your illness is causing them to feel anxious.
Tramp is very affected whenever I’m ill, which is actually really cool because it helps me remember to focus on all the positive things I do that help rebalance him, which in turn makes me feel better and helps me heal quicker!
Remember, behaviour is communication (true for both humans and dogs) and because our dogs can’t verbally explain to us how they’re feeling, or what is troubling them, they ‘act it out’. This can present itself in many different ways, things like jumping up, mouthing, humping, zoomies and of course growling and snapping in situations they would never normally behave like that.
Please avoid telling them off, shouting at them or reacting as much as possible, they are simply trying to communicate something. This is likely to be a difficult time for them too and telling them off or getting cross with them is going to increase anxiety and stress and so make it MORE LIKELY that your dog will ‘act out’ with more of these types of behaviours.
Take a step back and breathe, assess the situation surrounding the behaviour and try to determine what it was your dog was telling you has made them feel uncomfortable or worried or stressed. Do they need space away from children, do they need some quiet time, do they need to be left alone if there are people at home a lot more who are touching and interacting.
Some dogs love to be stroked and touched all the time but a lot of Romanian dogs don’t. They enjoy it when they enjoy it but the rest of the time they’d rather be left alone (I’m pretty much the same!)
Supporting Yourself Through Covid-19
(Because your Dogs need You to)
Support Your Immune System. Make sure you are taking your daily vitamins, either in foods or via supplements to help your body be as strong as it can be. We are all a bit rubbish sometimes in remembering to take our vitamins, but if you start taking them religiously now you stand more chance of them helping your body deal with any germs that may come along.
It’s no good suddenly taking them when you start feeling ill!... it’s too late then, your body needs to be supported now so that if you get the virus it has minimal impact. I’m no doctor (obviously!) but all the usual boosters :
- Vitamin D (Salmon, Sardines, Egg Yolks)
- Vitamin C (Strawberries, oranges, Broccoli
- Vitamin B6 (Tuna, Salmon, Chicken, Potatoes)
- Magnesium (Spinach, Avocado, Leafy Greens, Dark Chocolate!! Whoop!)
- Zinc (Legumes, yoghurt, seafood, red meat)
- I personally will also be increasing my intake of garlic to support my immune system.
Start taking a herbal anti anxiety supplement yourself. I am not the kind of person that tends to have a total meltdown when faced with challenges (although it has been known at times!) Having said that, I am a proactive person as much as possible, so maybe that helps?
At any time when I know I have a stressful period coming up, or something happens that increases my feelings of worry or anxiety, I will immediately launch into my self care routine on a daily basis. The first thing this involves is to start taking my rescue remedy every day whether I feel stressed or not. The reason I do this is because once your stress hormones are elevated, it’s harder to settle them down, so preventing that from happening in the first place is going to leave you feeling healthier, clear headed and able to cope with whatever comes along, including any canine related problems.
More details about my self care routine below, but of course, everyone has different ways of relaxing and de-stressing but maybe it will just help remind you to implement YOUR self care routine on a daily basis, even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes.
Do some Exercise. It doesn’t have to be anything that lasts very long or is particularly intense. Even little 5 or 10 minute regular mini exercise sessions can help our body stay strong, your muscles relaxed (stress usually makes them tense and knotty) and so in the best shape to fight off germs. Exercise is a research proven stress buster!
It could be something as simple as Yoga or Pilates, it might be a 10 minute jog round the block, it might be simply doing some stretches or if you’re that way inclined blast out a 10 minute HIIT routine! Even a good game of tug with your dog is a pretty good little workout!
Get the kids involved and have mini exercise sessions together to music – I don’t know about yours by my dogs usually join in too!
Get plenty of rest. Make sure you get the amount of sleep that you need and nap, if it’s possible, when you feel tired during the day. When our body is resting it’s restoring, repairing and regenerating new cells and we need our bodies to be strong and working as efficiently as possible.
Eat a healthy diet & drink plenty of water. For all the usual obvious reasons, a healthy diet with plenty of water is going to help our bodies cleanse itself and fight any infections. I’m not a nutritionist so obviously can’t advise on your diet, and besides, everyone’s optimum diet requirements are different, but just aim for as healthy as possible to give your body all the support it needs right now.
Go to bed as soon as you feel unwell, don’t wait until you HAVE to go to be because you feel so unwell. By going to bed and resting straight away you give your body it’s best chance of fighting the virus and of it having minimal impact. If you keep trying to do things and keep going, then your body is using up its energy that it could be putting to fighting the virus for you. I know it’s boring but it’s the best thing you can do to help your body.
Home Educate Your Children (but not all the time obviously!) I took my son out of school and home educated him for nearly two years and it was the best thing I could’ve done for him. I’m not necessarily talking maths, English etc, although they of course can be included, but life stuff is equally as important. Set little focus sessions for children each day to help develop confidence and life and social skills.
Make a fun game out of shopping for weekly groceries. Teach your kids to cook, or bake, educate them how to look after your animals or plant their own vegetables or flowers that they have to nurture. Think about playing to their strengths, what do they enjoy doing and enhance those skills – manual things, building things, problem solving games and activities, taking care of animals, learning about something they have a big interest in, give them a project in that area and offer a ‘prize’ for them doing a presentation to the family.
Encourage them to ask for things by themselves in shops and pay for their own purchases. All these things can go a long way to developing confidence and for me, this is one of the most VALUABLE things we can do for our children. When a child grows up with confidence, they can achieve anything!
Limit the Time Spent Watching Coronavirus News. I know we all need to be kept up to date, but be conscious of how much time you spend watching programme after programme on the Coronavirus and only watch reputable sources of information!
Apart from the fact that constantly watching it can create very high levels of anxiety, it can also become an obsessive ‘need’ to know everything about it. This again can be unhealthy for both your mind and your body. Watch what you need to stay up to date with relevant information then switch that box off and go play with your dogs! …or kids, or spouse I guess 😉
SMILE!… So my last recommendation is to remember to smile, or even better laugh! It is also proven through research that smiling and laughing have a positive impact on our bodies at a cellular level. But if that wasn’t a good enough reason, it can also have a massively positive effect on our energy and on our dogs.
Our Romanian dogs especially are finely tuned into our energy and every minute detail of our facial expressions. As we can tend to frown when we are stressed or worried or anxious, they also pick up on this. Do some experimenting with your own dogs with this… at a time when they are interacting with you (early evening is usually a good time) alternate between smiley face and frowny face and see what reactions you get from them.
So, be aware when you are frowning, this is especially important for people who live alone and so maybe don’t have anyone to talk to and therefore less reason to embark in random jovial conversations. Be mindful of your facial expression, check on it often! :)… and if it’s frowning, make it smile!
If anyone would like to share a picture in the private Facebook group of them #smiling with their pets, then please head on over there and do so! At such a difficult time for us all it’s a bit cliché to say ‘keep a positive mindset’ and ‘think positively’ etc, but we can ALL think of a reason to smile, a great big beautiful genuine smile that makes our dogs eyes glint with anticipation of a fun interaction 😉 … and when we share that smile, we get lots of smiles back!
Stay safe everyone, take care of yourselves, take care of each other and of course, take care of your dogs xx
If you’re not already a member of my private Facebook group, you are welcome to head on over and join, as I share all sorts of useful bits and bobs in there. You can find a link HERE to the group
My Self Care Routine: Just in case it’s helpful to anyone, this is a brief summary of what my daily self care routine looks like. I will usually do it in 2 or 3 short sessions of around 10 minutes each, morning, lunchtime and late evening.
- Daily rescue remedy
- Meditation / Walking Meditation
- Full body stretching/Yoga
- Belly breathing
- Foam rolling
- Self Massage or TTouch (TTouch is not just for our dogs you know!)
- Baking cakes and biscuits
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Reiki & energy work (I usually do this last thing at night)