Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of us have been "forced" to spend a lot more time at home and re-imagine our relationships with family and friends. The feelings of loneliness and isolation have increased with the loss of face-to-face social interaction while being in lockdown or quarantine. But on the bright side, it has given a lot of dog owners a better opportunity to bond with their furry friends. It has made them companions for life.

 

a small white dog kissing a woman's chin outdoors during sunset

 

All pets, but dogs, in particular, have a unique ability to provide their owners a lot of emotional support and love, and all that during some stressful times. They bring a lot of fun to the home and keep you in the present moment, rather than overthinking an uncertain future. That being said, a lot of studies have shown that dogs provide comfort, which is at least equal to a close friend.

In a study conducted by the University of Utah, they found:

  • Having a dog is associated with lower cardiovascular responses, surprisingly, even lower than having a close friend close to you.
  • Therapy dogs have been shown to alleviate distress in chronic pain patients. So having a dog could make a significant contribution in aiding social welfare situations.
  • Dogs have a very important role also in psychiatric settings, successfully being used with patients who are struggling with loneliness, depression, phobias, schizophrenia, and addiction.
  • Dog owners have significantly lowered distress and nervousness

STIMULATING & FUN ACTIVITIES TO DO WITH YOUR DOG

Creating new creative activities to do with your dog is essential for your dog's emotional well-being and overall happiness. There are a lot of activities you can do with your dog, which include:

Taking long hikes and walks: Getting much-needed exercise for yourself is just one of the benefits of going on a long walk. You also explore new areas and take a welcomed break from the repetitive routine of going to the gym.

Make homemade dog treats: This not only allows you to spend quality time with your dog but also tests your culinary skills, which from time to time could help to improve your diet.

Training: When you're spending time at home, you have more time to improve your dog's behavior with training. Doing so will give your dog good manners for life and make it much easier to take your dog into public spaces as they open back up.

Just chill: Snuggling up together on the couch after a long day, while watching a movie with your dog could be just what the doctor ordered after a busy day.

Teach your dog new tricks: To create a closer bond, teaching your dog new tricks is the most powerful way. Besides the new tricks that your dog learns, it also improves overall manners and obedience while at the same time increasing your dog's flexibility, concentration, and balance.

a lady playing outside with her dog with a Chuckit! Fetch Wheel

 

Play: Playtime is an important part of a dog's life. Through play, dogs can get their exercise in which leads to a healthier dog. First, you'll need to figure out what type of play style your dog likes. Does your dog like to fetch things and bring them back to you? Does your dog enjoy chewing more than fetching? Does your dog react to squeaky or grunting toys? Once you have these questions answered, pick out a toy for your dog's specific play style. Here are some recommendations:

  • If your dog is a fetcher, check out Chuckit! Fetch toys.
  • If your dog enjoys chewing on things, consider getting a flavored nylon Pet Qwerks bone.
  • If your dog gets bored easily, consider a puzzle-treat toy from JW.
  • If your dog is a tugger, check out Petmate's assortment of tug toys for dogs.

Once you know your pet's play style, and you have the right toys, be sure to spend at least 30 minutes a day playing with your pup. As you play with your dog, the bond between the two of you will grow and before you know it, you'll be best friends.

TEACH YOUR DOG A NEW TRICK

a man teaching his dog new tricks

 

There are a lot of tricks you can teach your dog. Some of them are:

Shake Hands: You should first, present a handful of treats to your dog. Then, they will be inclined to paw at your hand, and as they are doing it, start using the command "shake."

Paws Up: You should teach your dog to put their front paws up to a high object like a small chair or tree stump. The object you choose should be close to you and you should also have treats readily available in your hand. Move slowly so your dog follows the treats in your hand. Once you have your dog's attention, raise up your hand slowly and encourage your dog to also raise their front paws. Once the paws are up, reward them with a treat and praise them. Repeat this process until the trick is learned.

Once you and your dog are comfortable with these, you might want to continue to more difficult tricks like teaching your dog to jump on your back or play dead.

HOW TO BE YOUR DOG'S BEST FRIEND

 

dog sleeping inside a plastic pet kennel

 

Like every other relationship, you get what you put in. Well, dogs are no different. Make sure to respect your dog's needs. In return, they will be willing to give you their respect. What should you do to get love from your dog?

  • Practice regular grooming: Make sure to wash your dog properly and brush their hair at least once a week. If your dog is outside playing and it's rainy season, make sure to rinse them off afterward. Note: you should only use shampoo that is made for dogs. Do not use human shampoo on your dog. For other grooming tips, click here.
  • Dogs need personal space. Respect that: A dog is like a human. They need time to rest and relax. This affects their well-being. It is very important to allow your dog this time and space. Understanding their body language allows you to know when your dog might need time of their own. If you have the space, consider getting your dog a plastic kennel to retreat to. Plastic dog kennels cater to your dog's denning instincts. 
  • Take your dog to the vet: To keep your dog happy and healthy, take your dog to the vet regularly for checkups. If you are feeling that your dog is showing signs of discomfort, get the dog to the vet. They will be able to tell you if it's just gas or something more serious.
  • Provide your dog with healthy nourishment: Dogs need fresh drinking water constantly. Make sure they are watching you while you fill their food and water bowls. This way, they will recognize you as their primary caregiver. Consistency of portion size and feeding times is a great way to keep your dog healthy and happy. To help keep your pet's food as fresh as possible, place it in a Vittles Vault.
  • Provide a safe home environment: If you keep the dog indoors, you have to make sure to keep cleaning products and other household hazards out of their reach. Especially if you leave your pet indoors, alone. If you are keeping your dog outside, pet-proof your yard and make sure the yard is completely fenced in so your dog stays safe.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF OWNING A DOG

Living in these unprecedented times, many of us have experienced a lot of stress, depression, and anxiety. But that doesn't mean the dog has to experience these too. Developing a closer relationship with your dog not only helps the dog, but it can help you too. Here's how:

  • Helps with depression: It's been scientifically proven that people who own pets experience less depression.
  • Eases anxiety levels: To help you relax and be calm, your body releases chemicals called serotonin and dopamine. When your body stops releasing these chemicals, you can experience anxiety. Studies have shown that pet owner responsibilities such as grooming your dog, playing with your dog, or taking a walk with your dog increase both serotonin and dopamine levels. Doing small things like this helps ease the anxiety you may be experiencing.
  • Adds companionship: If you're feeling alone, owning a dog is a great way to find companionship. Your pet will rely on you to take care of them. And when you do this successfully, the companionship and bond built is priceless.

HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR DOG IF YOU GET SICK

If you ever get sick and cannot care for your dog, you must have a care plan in place for your dog. While it can be hard to think about, it's good to be prepared so that you pet continues to receive the best care.

  • Make sure to arrange who will care for your dog if you ever become too sick to care for your dog yourself. Consider a close family member or friend.
  • Always make sure your pet's collar has an ID tag. Sometimes accidents happen and the dog can get out. If your dog is properly tagged, chances of finding him are much better.
  • Write information about your dog's medical and feeding schedules on a piece of paper. Also, add any behavioral issues and some of your dog's favorites. Also, include your vet's information.
  • Make sure your pet is insured. A study conducted in March 2021 found that only 25% of pet owners have pet insurance.
  • Keep an emergency blanket and comfort toy for your dog.
  • Keep vaccines up to date.
  • If your dog is on any medication, be sure the schedule is well documented.

CONCLUSION

During times of stress, owning a dog can help you cope with depression, anxiety, and the feeling of loneliness. Pet parenting responsibilities such as grooming your dog or playing with your dog help keep people active and healthy! While owning a dog comes with quite a few responsibilities, the reward is always worth it!

This article was written by Elissa Berger – the proud owner of 5 dogs.

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