A nationwide lockdown is seldom a pleasant experience, but this doesn’t mean it has to be entirely miserable – and our pets can certainly help us combat the doom and gloom that comes with it.
As the UK goes into lockdown due to Covid-19, an unprecedented number of people across the country is turning to home-working. The RSPCA – whose office-based staff is also working remotely – highlights the many benefits that being around our pets can have on our mental health, as well as sharing tips to make the most out of this unexpected extra time together.
Dr Sam Gaines, animal welfare expert at the RSPCA, says, “Most of us with pets already know how spending time with them gives us a huge boost, and we look forward to time at home and precious weekends where we can spend all of our time with them.
“At the RSPCA’s headquarters we’re equipped to welcome some of our dogs into the office on a day to day basis which has huge benefits. However, since the national announcement advising people to work from home where possible, many more people now find themselves with rather different colleagues to what they’re used to! But in fact science suggests that being around our pets can provide significant benefits.”
The benefits include:
Vital companionship for those working from home alone and those who may be on their own self-isolating. Chat to your pets!
Pets encourage regular breaks which can boost productivity and help with problem-solving and creative thinking. Pop into the garden or handle or play with your pets for a few minutes at a time.
Working from home with our pets encourages us to share stories and photos with colleagues, initiating interaction with others. Share your pet pics! #homepawffice
Dogs can also promote exercise and going on a walk during lunch breaks and before/after work can make us more productive, can give us more energy and can help us concentrate. Take a lunchtime walk with your dog or pop outside to watch your other pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs enjoying themselves in their exercise run and even better give them some free outside time in the garden and supervise them.
When we stroke animals our bodies release oxytocin, a hormone that may bring us closer together with the people around us and can make us feel more confident and optimistic. Give those pets some fuss or maybe even a little grooming session.
In the case of dogs, even when we just look into their eyes – our bodies release oxytocin, a hormone that brings about bonding between individuals as well as helping us feel more optimistic and lowering blood pressure, which may be what many of us need at this uncertain time. Dote on those dogs!
Owning a dog can also make people feel happier and healthier. Take a leaf out of your pet’s book – enjoy the moment here and now.
Sam says, “You may also be looking for ways to ensure that your pet is happy and healthy too! And especially if your pet just can’t overcome their excitement of having you at home all day, and you’re struggling to keep them occupied and focus on your work, mental stimulation is a great way to keep them entertained.
“This can also help if your walks have had to change so other activities can help add to the benefits of exercise, until you are able to take them back out for their usual walks.”
Here are some useful ideas for dogs:
Try challenging your pooch at tea time – ditch the food bowl and feed Fido using a Kong or a food puzzle to get them thinking.
Play, play, play! Most dogs love to play so set aside some time to have a good game of fetch or tug with your pooch.
Learning a new trick or command is great mental stimulation for a dog. Get out their favourite treats and try teaching Fido how to wave his paw, ‘sit’, ‘lie down’, or ‘roll-over’.
Get him sniffing – scent work can be a great way to keep them busy for ages! Hide treats around the garden or around the house and send them off in search of them. If you feed your dog kibble this can be a great way to serve them their meals!
Remember toilet breaks – remember your dog will still need to go outside to use the toilet so make sure they get regular access to the garden to potter, sniff and wee.
Spotify has recently launched ‘My Dog’s Favourite Podcast’ which has a range of carefully selected spoken word, sound and original music designed to encourage relaxation.
It’s important to try and keep our pets’ routines as smooth and near normal as possible to avoid them becoming stressed as well as bored, but luckily there are many ways to keep pets happy and healthy while you are social distancing.
“It’s important to try and keep our pets’ routines as smooth and near normal as possible to avoid them becoming stressed as well as bored,” Sam adds. “But luckily there are many ways to keep pets happy and healthy while you are social distancing.”
Social distancing tips for keeping your pets and family safe and happy
Always adopt good hygiene practises and thoroughly wash your hands after interacting with your pets, such as rabbits, rodents, birds and reptiles.
Avoid being kissed or licked and sharing food with your pet.
Ensure you have supplies of pet food and medication in case you need to stay at home.
Enjoy dog walks but keep two meters away from other people
Information on looking after pets for those who are showing symptoms of, or are living with household members with, Covid-19 can be found here.
Images by RSPCA