Go Small or Stay Home: Shifting our Focus in the Time of COVID-19
- Allison Hartz
Story and Photos Contributed by Ruffwear Ambassador Laura Patton
At a time of year when we would often be loading up for our first adventure of the spring, or getting ideas in place for a big summer trip, we are being asked to scrap plans, stay home, and limit all non-essential travel. As adventurers, being told to stay put can feel stifling, but there are still so many ways we can get out with our dogs! Having a senior dog with pretty severe arthritis has been preparing for me for this age of mini-adventures, and it’s time for us to put our new routines to the test. Below, I offered some tips and guidelines for making the most out of your close-to-home outings during these next few weeks.
Stay close to home, be sure to follow local and national guidelines, and respect closures. Many states have implemented “shelter in place” protocol, which limits non-essential trips. Fortunately, walks are considered essential for mental and physical health, so walk on! Now is the time to check out all the little nooks and crannies of your local area that you have passed up before in lieu of bigger adventures. Remember social distancing protocol and keep 6’ or more between yourself and other walkers (if your dog doesn’t have perfect recall, this is a great time to keep them on a leash so you don’t have to approach other walkers to grab your dog). If you see that a trailhead is particularly busy (or closed), choose a different place for your walk.
See old places in new ways. Our driveway connects directly to a state highway, and as such we usually drive to trails or off-highway locations for our walks. But with the decreased traffic, we’ve been able to walk right out our driveway and down the highway to new places we haven’t yet explored. Is your schedule suddenly flexible? Try walking your usual route at a different time of day. Try making up a new route through your neighborhood or practice a new training skill on your walks.
Your dog is excited to be out with you - no matter what. Your buddy doesn’t know that you just cancelled a really cool camping trip that he would have loved. He’s just excited to be spending time with you. Any walk, training session, or outing together is a highlight of his day. Try to mirror that attitude, and appreciate the time you have together. Star is always super happy to walk around the block with me, no matter how many times we’ve done it, or how mundane it may seem to me compared to past adventures together. Seeing the spring in her step every time we go out reminds me how lucky I am to spend time with her.
Remember that this is temporary. The current situation is not forever! The things you learn about yourself and your dog while practicing close to home adventures will be tools you can apply to future trips and more epic outings. The ability to make the most out of each little excursion with your dog is an important skill, which will continue to be applicable in the future.
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I’ve actually started to work on things with my dog Macie on our walks that I never had time for. She’s no longer allowed to react to other dogs and not allowed to leash pull. It has make our walks more pleasant, and allowed us to walk further and more often. It has been interesting how quickly she improved with just a little bit of patience. I’m no longer in a hurry, since we have no other place to go!
Thanks for this post. I have a 2.5 year old itty bitty pitty that is full of energy and naughtiness. I have used my walks in the neighborhood to work on training. I have local kids toss treats to her from their bikes to make training a game for her and them. I also make sure I stop and converse with my dog owning neighbors (across the road of course) and I’ve gotten to know a lot of people that live around the corner from me. I’ve just made the decision to use this time to get to know my dog and it’s made my time at home so much better.
Scout and I are walking different routes through the neighborhood in small increments across the day to get to 5 miles. Inside and in the backyard we’re working on come, sit, stay, and shake with treats and getting the zoomies out. When it finally stops snowing and warms up we’ll try camping in the backyard. We’re so ready for an epic adventure!
Thanks for this post! My wife and I have been using this quarantine as an opportunity to working on problem behaviors and walking etiquette with our 11 month old working line shepherd. He’s shaping up to be a good boy, and having extra time to walk and practice running for when he’s older has been nice.
Patricia L Williams
The current situation has allowed me more time to practice walking meditatively with our border collie Shasta and not be in a hurry. I recognize when I am too worried and fearful and stop and take a break. I stop and breathe for all those who are suffering and cannot breathe. I am also grateful for all the beautiful things in nature and hearing the birds sing and new owls in our neighborhood hooting at night.
Awesome story, thank you for sharing silver linings in the cloudy days. It is great to go around the same old block every time I can with my 4 legged babies.
Great post! In making our walks around the neighborhood I have discovered a wealth of wildlife basically living in my own backyard. I suppose my fence keeps them out of sight on my property but in walking the lap around the neighbor I am seeing deer, squirrel, rabbits, groundhogs, and many other little creatures that I never knew existed in the area. I have discovered a beautiful waterfall that is mere minutes from the house I was raised in and I had no idea it existed until earlier this week. Costa, my rescue hound, and I and truly enjoyed discovering the local treasures we usually overlook!