Social distancing and self-quarantine rules are not just hard on humans — it’s tough on our dogs as well. As naturally social animals, dogs love playing with other people and dogs alike. They love being able to explore new places, take in all the smells, and get attention from friendly strangers.
With stay-at-home orders in place throughout the country, dog owners all have a common question: Can I still walk my dog during lockdown? In nutshell, yes. But let’s dive into more details.
If you live in Illinois, then you’re probably familiar that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she expects the statewide stay-at-home order to be extended into May, though Governor Pritzker said he doesn’t have a date in mind yet, and it’s too early to tell. Regardless of how long the stay-at-home order lasts, dog owners need to be educated on how to safely walk and exercise their dogs.
How to Safely Walk Your Dog in Illinois During COVID-19
The order states that residents are still allowed to go outside to exercise or walk their pets. However, walks should not be in groups and should steer clear of dogs parks, just to maintain safety. Just as you’re only supposed to self-quarantine with people you live with, dog walks should also only take place with people who live with the dog, and also be respectful of others on the street. This isn’t the time to let dogs be extra friendly to strangers and other dogs they pass on the street. While it’s definitely hard to deny them more head pats and a friend to bounce around with, it’s better to maintain distance for everyone’s safety. Plus, dogs can pick up germs while outside, so having extra hands on them at this time is not advised.
If you normally walk your dog with a friend or in a pack, you might want to use this time to enjoy solo walks with your four-legged friend, or, try a socially distant walk, staying at least 6-feet away from each other and wearing face coverings for extra protection. However, enjoying solo walks with your dog creates a deep bond and also gives you time to work on leash training or other training that is harder to focus on when in a group. Keeping your pup mentally working will tire them out and help their behavior during these longer stretches of time inside.
At Regis Regal German Shepherds we’re based in Spring Grove, a fairly small village in Illinois. Although there are a few decent parks that we normally like to take our German Shepherds out to (such as the Lyle C. Thomas Memorial Park) so they can get a good run around, we’re lucky to have plenty of space on our property so they can burn off some energy. It’s still good to take them out around the block though to give yourself a break and so they can explore all the latest scents outside the yard.
Minimizing the Spread of Germs
Since dogs are walking around outside and then coming back into your home, it’s not a bad idea to take some extra precautions during this time to minimize the passing of germs. Most dog owners kiss, cuddle, and even let their dogs in bed with them — it’s hard not to!
Since staying healthy is of high-priority right now, ensure you’re thoroughly wiping your dog’s paws when you come inside from walks, and give them more frequent baths too. And whilst it’s very unlikely you will catch coronavirus from your dog (although this has happened in Hong Kong), you might want to avoid cuddling and kissing your dog for the time being, just to be safe.
Remember, dogs love being with their families, and probably aren’t missing the park of their dog friends as much as you think. Spending time with you is always their favorite thing, so finding ways to continue to bond during this time will help you grow closer and make these next few weeks pass a little easier.
Note: This article was published 16th April 2020. Advice may have changed since publication so you should follow the latest Chicago and Illinois news updates on Covid-19 to ensure it’s still OK to walk your dog in Illinois.
Don’t forget that if you’re having issues with your dogs behavior, or you’ve just taken on a new puppy and you want some advice from a dog trainer, we’re offering our own virtual dog training service. You can sign up for a session and get my complete attention so I can discuss any issues you may be having and see what advice I can give – and these sessions are normally held through a Zoom or Facebook video call so I can see you (and your dog!) during the consultation.