Pets love routine, and so do most pet owners. But the stay-at-home order has turned everyone’s routine upside down.
Whether you’re spending this time sprawled on the couch bingeing Netflix, hunched at a makeshift desk peering at a Zoom screen, or working long hours staffing an essential service, chances are your cat or dog is feeling the difference.
Fortunately, there are some strategies and products that can help restore equilibrium to our lives and those of our dogs and cats. Check out these suggestions from Seattle-area experts.
Let’s get out — safely
Heading out on a walk will do a huge amount for your health — and your dog’s. But social-distancing rules mean preventing Rover from roving and pulling you near other people.
While there is no evidence that animals transmit the virus to humans or have played a role in its spread, the Centers for Disease Control last week recommended that pets not be allowed to interact with people or animals outside their households.
Whether you choose to take your dog to a park —while keeping a safe distance from others — or stay in the neighborhood, the right leash is essential.
“Avoid a pinch collar,” says Erika Kriegsheim, owner of Motley Crew dog walking on Capitol Hill. “A harness gives more control, and the dog doesn’t have any negative feeling.”
She likes the locally made Wonder Walker body halter. “With most dogs, you put it on and they completely calm down,” she says.
While her business is temporarily closed, Kriegsheim says one of her employees is using gloves, masks and sanitizer to walk dogs for an elderly customer and for health care workers.
Kennels and doggy day care are considered essential services. With so many people at home, Woof! Play & Stay Dog Daycare in downtown Seattle reports having only half of the usual number of dogs. “But people are still bringing them in,” says Brad Davis, the owner. “High-energy dogs are going stir-crazy in small apartments.”
John Hutchison, of South Seattle, is still taking his two lively Samoyeds to the Genesee Park off-leash area — but now it’s an outing as much for him as for the dogs. “I get to see two other dog owners I know,” he says. “We stay 6 feet apart. It’s my whole social life!”
A new perspective on pets
Spending more time at home with your pets is an opportunity to address household behavior issues. This is especially true for those who are fostering dogs during the stay-at-home period.
“People want to give a new dog everything, right away,” says Jenny Nordin, whose volunteer organization, Dog Gone Seattle, places dogs in foster and permanent homes. “But keep in mind that the new dog is anxious and needs structure and calm.”
Her basic training recommendations: Accustom the dog to sit calmly while leashed and near you, to obey the “Place” command to go to its bed, and to get used to a properly sized crate. “Keep the crate where the dog can observe the normal routines of the home, but isn’t in the middle of the bustle,” she says.
If you don’t like the looks of a basic metal dog crate, don’t worry. Catalog companies like Frontgate, Orvis, Ruff Houzin and Chewy sell elegant (if pricey) “pet residences” that fit with contemporary furnishings.
Nordin also suggests that you train your dog to use a sturdy dog bed in the family living area. Pet supply stores offer a wide range of attractive beds, including the furniture-grade models made by Epoch Design in Redmond. Epoch’s solid-wood Moderno Deluxe raised bed comes in a choice of finishes and includes a drawer in which toys can be stored.
When you want to snuggle with your dog on the couch, try one of the many washable sofa covers from Chewy, Bed Bath & Beyond and In the Company of Dogs. Nordin uses an old Pendleton blanket. “You can absolutely have fun with your dog, and your house does not have to look like a dog park,” she says.
The stay-at-home period is also a chance to give more attention to bored or restless felines. Add toys, buy a more challenging cat tree, tackle leash training, or build an indoor-outdoor catio.
“Cats are drawn to sunshine and want to experience the sights and sounds of the exterior world,” says Cynthia Chomos, founder of Catio Spaces in Seattle. Chomos, a feng shui consultant, built an outdoor living area for her own indoor cat and soon began designing them for neighbors. These wood-and-wire structures can be part of a porch, balcony, wall or yard.
Chomos, who also sells designs for DIY catios, describes them as extensions of the home. “People decorate them with artwork and cat-safe plants,” she says.
Keeping clean and healthy
While your own hair and nails may be a mess these days, good grooming is critical to your pet’s health. While many groomers are closed or on limited hours, pet supply stores are open with selections of nail clippers, brushes and shampoos (human shampoos are far too harsh for pets). The American Kennel Club has step-by-step grooming videos to help.
“The most important thing is trimming nails so they don’t become a health issue,” says Ryan Floresca, general manager of the Petco on Holman Road in Seattle. “And with dogs with thick coats, dematting brushes and FURminators are your best friends. Use them every day, 15–20 minutes a day, and that will do it until you can get to a groomer.”