Social distancing is one of the new phrases that we’ve all recently added to our vocabularies in the wake of the Covid 19 coronavirus epidemic, and everyone, including those that are still healthy, is being strongly advised to practice it to slow the spread of Covid 19 and so, alleviate the acute pressure it is placing on the NHS.
Everyone playing their part and socially distancing successfully will mean that the NHS will be better equipped to treat patients and won’t run out of resources as a result of a huge percentage of the population falling ill at the same time. This means that we all have to take this advice seriously and limit and reduce our contact with other people as far as possible, to help to protect the integrity of our society as a whole.
Humans are a social species, and so many of us are finding this strange and difficult to achieve; but dogs are a highly social species too, and social distancing also means that providing dogs with opportunities to socialise with other dogs is going to be very difficult.
So, is it possible to practice social distancing effectively whilst also allowing your dog to socialise with other dogs? This article will tell you. Read on to learn more.
Government guidance on social distancing suggests that a minimum of six feet or two metres be maintained between people at all times, and that crowded places be avoided. As dog walking is an outdoor pursuit, this should be entirely achievable, as long as you avoid busier times and congested pavements.
However, this really only applies to on-lead walking, as communication is required between dog owners who don’t know each other when loose dogs greet and play.
Dogs that are running loose in a park should by design be safe and social with others. This means that you may well be able to keep a significant distance between the owners of other dogs whilst the dogs play. However, you can still speak to and hear each other from a distance far greater than the recommended 6 feet if needed to say hi and agree that the dogs can play; the greatest challenge here being avoiding the instinctive urge to move closer together.
Also, even from a distance, dog owners can communicate non-verbally; waving, nodding, shaking your head, thumbs up or down.
Try to avoid walking your dog in places where there are likely to be a lot of dogs and owners. A large number of both or either will necessitate more communication and coordination between owners which means more likelihood of closer proximity, and also, increases the risks of spats between dogs that might require owner intervention.
Some doggy daycare centres are continuing to operate whilst this is still permitted, generally with a number of additional safety and hygiene protocols in play for the protection of customers and staff.
Taking your dog along to one of these and dropping them off for a couple of hours is an alternative way to let your dog socialise without you needing to have contact with other owners.
If you have friends with dogs, why nor arrange a walking rota, where you take turns to take your dog and theirs out together, and vice versa? If you and the other dog already know each other, this can generally be arranged without the need for contact between you and the other person, enabling you to socialise your dogs and maintain social distance.
Volunteering to walk a dog for someone who is self-isolating and taking the dog out with your own also enables both dogs to socialise, and again, if you arrange the handover remotely, enables you to maintain your social distancing too.
When you’re walking and socialising your dog, clean or sanitize their collar and lead before and after, and wash or sanitise your own hands before you go out and when you get back home too.
Try not to touch your face when out, and sanitize your hands if you do, and also, don’t pick up another dog’s toy. Try to avoid taking toys out for your dog too, to avoid other people touching them as well.
When you get back from you walk, wipe your dog’s coat over with a pet-safe sanitising wipe.
If possible, you should try to provide opportunities for your dog to socialise while maintaining your own social distance, and following some of the tips above should make this viable even if only to a limited extend.
However, if you have to choose between socialising your dog and social distancing, social distancing should take priority; just be sure to give your dog lots of love and attention instead.