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How to care for your dog during the coronavirus ‘lockdown’

March 27, 2020

As a dog owner, you’re likely to have lots of questions about how to care for, socialise and exercise your puppy or dog while stringent measures are in place to tackle coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK.

To recap, with effect from Monday 23 March 2020, the latest guidance from the UK government requires everyone to stay at home. You should only leave the house for one of four reasons: 

  • Shopping for essentials, e.g. food and medicines, as infrequently as possible
  • One form of exercise a day, e.g. a walk, run or cycle, alone or with members of your own household.
  • Any medical need, or to provide care to a vulnerable person.
  • Travelling to and from work, and only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

In this guide we cover issues such as how to make sure your dog continues to get the exercise they need, what to do about your puppy’s vaccinations, and how to keep up with your puppy’s socialisation and training schedule during these challenging times. 

We will be constantly updating this guide with the latest information and resources, so please check back frequently. 

Does walking my dog count as exercise during this time of lockdown? 

Walking your dog counts as your one form of exercise. This means that your dog may need to be walked less than usual during this period. However, if there are other people in your household you can take it in turns to walk your dog if they would benefit from more exercise. If you live alone, there are lots of ways that you can exercise your dog mentally and physically at home. Make sure that you practice social distancing when walking your dog. This means keeping a distance of two metres apart from other people. As a gathering of more than two people in public places is currently prohibited, you should avoid congregating with other dog walkers. 

Helpful resources

Can I still get my puppy or dog vaccinated? 

Vets are classed as an exempted business and are remaining open during this period. However, the British Veterinary Association has advised all vets to switch to emergency care only during this time of lockdown. Therefore, if your puppy or dog is due to have their primary vaccinations, an annual booster, be neutered or see the vet for something routine, your appointment may have to be postponed. 

If you have any questions or concerns about your puppy or dog, please contact your vet for advice.  

My dog is due for their flea/worming treatment. What should I do?

It’s important that you maintain your puppy or dog’s flea or worming treatment, as prescribed by your vet. If you need to order more supplies, please call your vet to find out how you should do this with the current measures in place.

What should I do if my dog is sick or injured? 

Vets are continuing to operate during this time of lockdown to deal with emergency cases. However, they will have measures in place to comply with the requirements for social distancing to protect their staff and clients from coronavirus. Therefore, if you are worried about the health of your dog you should first telephone your vet rather than attend in person. They will advise you on what steps to take if your dog needs to be seen by a vet. 

Helpful resources

How can I ensure my puppy is being socialised?

Many new puppy owners are worried that they won’t be able to properly socialise their puppy at this time. Between the ages of 4-12 weeks, puppies are at their most inquisitive and receptive to new experiences, which they may be scared of if they only encounter them in adult life. As things currently stand, there may be limitations on what puppies can be exposed to, e.g. new people, outdoor noises and experiences. However, you can still continue with your puppy’s socialisation plan at home. 

During this time of lockdown, your puppy or dog will enjoy having lots of company at home. However, it’s important to you prevent separation occurring when life eventually returns to normal. If you have a puppy, you can start work with training them to be left alone, for example, by getting them used to being in a different room to you and maintaining a balance between cuddle time and letting your puppy settle on their own.

Helpful resources

What should I do about training classes for my puppy?

Unfortunately, the measures that are necessary to combat the spread of coronavirus mean that puppy training classes cannot take place. However, the good news is that some puppy trainers are now offering virtual classes. This means that you will be able to continue with your puppy’s training from the safety of your home, with support from professional dog trainers. 

Helpful resources

  • Check out the Puppy School who are offering virtual puppy training classes to existing and new clients. Use the Puppy School class locator to find and sign up with your local instructor.
  • The Dogs Trust Dog School is not currently running any classes but you can get lots of tips from their puppy and dog training videos
  • Sign up for this online dog training programme – 21 days to a clever dog – by dog behaviourist and author Sarah Whitehead. 

All of the training resources we recommend have been developed by dog trainers and behaviourists who are members of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers or the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, and are accredited by the Animal Behaviour and Training Council

Can I walk someone else’s dog?

You can walk someone else’s dog as long as their individual circumstances means that they are unable to walk their dog themselves. This includes key workers (e.g. NHS staff), those who are shielded, the vulnerable and over 70s, and those who have symptoms of coronavirus and are self-isolating. The following guidance sets out what you should do to protect yourself and the person whose dog you are walking.

Can I still take my dog to the groomers? 

Dog groomers are unable to remain open during this time of lockdown, so you will need to revert to home grooming in the short-term. Daily grooming will help to keep on top of knots in your dog’s coat and get rid of dead hair and dirt. 

Get puppy care tips and advice

  • If you’ve got a puppy, sign up to Puppy’s First Year emails to receive regular updates on what to expect as your puppy develops and grows, delivered straight to your inbox.
  • Check out our Puppy Guides for tips and advice, including puppy toilet training, sleep training, teething and biting.

Useful links to other organisations

Advice on what you need to do during the coronavirus outbreak

UK government

Advice on caring for your dog during the coronavirus outbreak

Battersea Dogs & Cat Home

Blue Cross

Dogs Trust

The Kennel Club

PDSA

RSPCA

SSPCA

How to find a qualified dog trainer or behaviourist

Animal Behaviour and Training Council

Association of Pet Dog Trainers

Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors