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Caring for your dog during the COVID pandemic

January 5, 2021

As the UK has gone into another national lockdown, you may have questions about how to care for, socialise and exercise your puppy or dog during coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In this guide we cover issues such as how to make sure your dog continues to get the exercise they need, what to do if they need to see a vet, and how to keep up with your puppy’s socialisation and training schedule. We have also included some things that you might want to think about regarding your dog’s care in the event of you or a family member being told to self-isolate.

The rules about what you can and can’t do may be different in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so you should check out what restrictions apply where you live and what action you need to take.

Can I get a puppy or dog during the pandemic?

This is possible, provided you comply with national COVID restrictions. If you are interested in rehoming a dog, check to see which of the rescue centres are currently rehoming animals and follow their advice. You may not be able to visit a rescue centre in person, and local rehoming opportunities should be prioritised to avoid long journeys.

If you are due to pick up your new puppy from a breeder, the guidelines state that breeders can transport puppies to their new home. However, journey times must be kept to a minimum and social distancing measures during handover must be maintained.

A boom in puppy purchases during the pandemic has affected prices across many industries, particularly the cost of dogs. This high demand has also led to many people being scammed when buying a puppy.

  • Read this guide on how to buy a puppy and make sure you how to protect yourself from puppy scammers.

Can I exercise my dog during the pandemic? 

You can exercise your dog in line with the national restrictions, and as long as you are not self-isolating and you practice social distancing.

If you are unable to walk your dog or you are unable to give your dog as much exercise as they are used to, there are other ways you can exercise your dog at home. This includes making sure they have lots of things to chew (not your shoes), organising a fun game, such as a dog-friendly treasure hunt in the garden, or investing in a snuffle mat to help stimulate your dog’s snuffling instinct.

Read this government guidance about exercising your dog during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Helpful resources

Can I take my dog to the vets? 

Vets are classed as an exempted business, and are remaining open during periods of national or local lockdowns. They will be operating with social distancing measures in place. If you have any questions or concerns about your puppy or dog, please contact your vet.  

Helpful resources

How can I ensure my puppy is being socialised?

Many new puppy owners are worried about socialising their puppy during the pandemic. 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. There may be limitations on what puppies can be exposed to outside of the house during these times. However, you can still continue with your puppy’s socialisation plan at home. 

If you got your puppy during the pandemic, they will have enjoyed having lots of company at home. However, it’s important that you work on training them to be left alone so they don’t develop separation related problems. If you have a puppy, you can start training them to be left alone; for example, get them used to being in a different room to you, and maintain 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?

Many puppy and dog training classes have moved to being delivered online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact your local ABTC-approved dog trainer to find out how they are running their classes.

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 if they are unable to walk their dog themselves, for example, if they have to self-isolate. You should wash your hands before and after handling the dog and keep 2 metres away from other people and animals, including when handing over the dog to the owner.

Being prepared to self isolate

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have received a positive test result, you must self isolate for 10 days. If you live in the same house as someone with symptoms or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace, you must stay at home for 10 days. As a dog owner, it’s a good idea to plan ahead for this. Make sure:

  • You have a good supply of dog food – up to two weeks worth
  • There is someone you can call on to walk your dog if you are unable to, and could take your dog to the vet in the event of an emergency
  • You have plenty of good quality toys, chews and ideas for games to play to keep your dog entertained while you are at home

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

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