You may be one of the many people who have taken some time during lockdown to reconnect with your pet. All of a sudden, we have found ourselves with more free time, no endless trips in peak hour, and far more time at home. It has been a brilliant opportunity to get to know our pets better, and in turn, allow them to get to know us better too.
With pet stores deemed essential services, the sale of pet products has boomed, and, with walking our dogs being a permitted source of essential exercise, the COVID-19 lockdown has afforded us many opportunities to reconnect. In fact, I believe our pets have helped us through this difficult time in ways we may not fully appreciate.
Many people I've spoken to this year have told me about how their pets have been their saviour during the lockdown. If not for the increase in exercise, but for the simplicity of just being around their pets. People have reengaged in training their dogs, teaching them tricks and even baking them treats. And yes, this has been an incredibly valuable time for pets. But, it has been reciprocal. Engaging with our pets has a science to it. There are mutual benefits on a physiological level, including reduced blood pressure for both pet and human, increased neural activity with love and happiness hormones improving our moods (pets included), and being just that bit fitter, after increasing our exercise routines together. There can be no doubt that spending time with our pets improves our wellbeing. It even makes us live longer. And yes, your pet will live longer if they’re happier too.
So, with restrictions slowly but surely lifting each week, it is critical that we do not lose the sense of connection we have rebuilt with our pets. We have realised that the simple things in life are far more beneficial than the chaos of our bustling lives, so try to remember to slow down and spend as much time with your pets as you can. Here are some ways you can mutually benefit each day.
Put your phone in another room, and spend 10 minutes engaging with your dog
That might be a game of fetch, some trick training, or a great game of tug-of-war. The most important thing here is to exist completely in the moment, without being side-tracked.
Take your dog for an extra walk each day
This might only be 10 minutes, but the joy for your dog to explore a little more in the day can be invaluable to them. Remember, there are 24 hours in a day, and much of that does not have a purpose to your dog.
Talk to your pet. Pets are excellent listeners and they have a remarkable ability to relieve stress in our lives
Sometimes, we need someone just to sit with us and just exist in the moment. Pets are experts in this.
Plan something fun to do with your pet (and other members of your family)
Plan a hike, or a day trip to the coast. A sea change and fresh air will do wonders for both of you.
Practice some yoga, pilates, or some form of exercise where your pet can participate indoors
It may seem a little unusual to include your pet in so many human-centric activities, however, it is important to remember that we have bred them to depend on us in every sense. So, whilst much of your daily routine may revolve around doing ‘important’ human activities, your pet would take great delight in being involved with you.
In my opinion as a dog lover, owner and behaviourist, our dogs don’t get to live very long
And because of this, there is very little time to be wasted with them. Taking the time to be with them improves our health, happiness and longevity. Surely that is reason enough to engage with them every moment you can. After all, they live to be with us. Perhaps it is our duty to make their lives as happy, healthy and long as we possibly can too.