Nope, we are not talking about your daily routine for the past half a year. We are referring to your beloved pets with whom you are quarantined.
While they may be used to being cooped up at home since their chance of going out of the house depends heavily on you, our fur babies—dogs, in particular—are also feeling the stress of not being able to do their regular activities, like going out of the house for walks, for the past six months.
“They’ve become more restless at home,” said Arby Estolano of his four dogs—Meteor, a Shih Tzu; Bulak, coton de tulear; Stark, Pembroke Welsh corgi; and Gordon, golden retriever. “They’re full of energy and bark a lot more because they’re bored.”
Radio DJs and TV/events hosts Steven Silva and Candy Gamos’ dogs, toy poodle Choco and dachshund Bunless Schublig, seem to be “pretty chill” about not having to leave the house these days. “If anything, he seems to be happier because I’m with him all the time because I don’t leave the house,” said Gamos, referring to Bunless Schublig.
Meanwhile, Silva has noticed that Choco misses their daily walks, an activity that he always looks forward to, and that the toy poodle seems to wonder why the whole family is indoors most of the time.
Lack of activity
Dog behavior specialist Jennie L. Fajardo-Panes, a certified dog trainer, said that not all dogs are the same when expressing their frustration or anxiety due to lack of activity. Some will pace or whine excessively or just be plain naughty. Other dogs, meanwhile, may sleep more than usual, lose their appetite and show a lack of enthusiasm.
“Sudden changes in behavior should warrant a visit to the vet clinic,” Panes added. “For example, when a dog suddenly starts licking the floors or walls nonstop, it could indicate it might have a gastrointestinal problem. A dog that used to have no problem going up and down the stairs suddenly developing fear of the stairs might be having arthritic issues or an orthopedic condition. An amiable dog suddenly becoming grumpy or aggressive may have thyroid issues. We need to be sensitive to what our dogs might be trying to tell us.”
Prepandemic, Estolano’s smaller dogs went on regular walks while Gordon would play fetch on their street. Ever since the community quarantines were imposed in Metro Manila, however, the dogs’ outdoor activities have been reduced to really short walks and “potty” walks. “Fortunately, our street is usually people-free, but we still limit the walks to near the front of our house,” he added.
Vanessa Tabuena-Edurise and her husband live in a pet-friendly condo with Wynter, a Shih Tzu-poodle mix; Spryng, long-haired dachshund; and Boston terrier-Shih Tzu mix Summr. Lots of balls and squeaky toys keep the three dogs entertained while staying safe indoors. They like to people-watch, too, from the family’s balcony. The couple also brings the pups to her parents’ home for occasional “sleepovers,” so that they can interact with other dogs.
Fun activities to try
Panes, who runs dog enrichment center Pup Culture, said, however, that dogs do not have to be as physically active as we have always assumed. “Through the years, many clients would complain to me that they would walk their dogs for two straight hours and still end up with a dog doing zoomies when they get home,” she said.
She explained that a walk is a restrained activity which some dogs might despise. What dogs need are enrichment exercises that will stimulate their senses and encourage them to think. Panes recommends activities that will require dogs to use their keen sense of smell as a dog’s olfactory system is a thousand times better than a human’s. “One example would be finding treats or toys in a box,” she suggested.
“Condition your dog to search for one box with a treat or toy among five to 10 other boxes. Raise your criteria each time by building obstacles or mazes which your dogs can rummage through searching for that one precious box.”
Pet parents can expect to have fun in this exercise, too, as they are sure to discover how their dog goes about his or her problem-solving process.
“Other fun activities would be learning to dance with your dogs, teaching them how to shoot toys in a basket or hide in a box, among other mind-stimulating activities,” added Panes.
Safe outdoor destinations
Now that Metro Manila has eased into a less restrictive community quarantine, Silva has begun to slowly take Choco out for walks while doing their best to observe social distancing. Gamos, meanwhile, takes her dachshund on his regular walks at night when there’s no one around.
Estolano, however, does not want to risk it. Instead, he has given more leeway to the dogs to play indoors and roughhouse with each other, seeing that this was a good form of exercise as well.
Of course, playing a good ol’ game of fetch or tug is sure to give you and your pet a grand time. If you have enough space in your home, you may want to consider setting up a makeshift mini agility course.
For those who are wondering where they can safely take their dogs for some time outdoors, Panes recommended sticking to parks that are clean and uncrowded such as those in Bonifacio Global City; Blue Bay Walk, Baywalk along Roxas Boulevard and SM Mall of Asia by the Bay in Manila; and University of the Philippines Diliman and Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City.
As it is, pet parents should mind safety precautions when bringing their dogs along on walks these days. While it was OK before to allow people to pet your dog, strangers will now have to swoon over your pooch’s adorable face from a safe distance. Be watchful, too, of what your dogs are sniffing or picking up off the ground.
Upon coming home from a walk, it is advised to wipe down your dog’s face and snout. If we are asked to observe proper hand-washing especially if coming from outside the house, you should also wash your pets’ legs and paws thoroughly. This is not only for your dog’s safety but for yours as well. INQ