There is currently no evidence that our domestic dogs can contract Covid 19. Ensure you practice good hand hygiene and avoid allowing people to pat your dog as the virus can be carried on their coat in the same way it is carried on other surfaces. If someone does pat your dog, don’t become too worried. The chances that person is unwell with coronavirus is very low. The virus is transmitted through droplets from an infected person. If the person is unwell, they would have to have active virus particles on their body. If a droplet containing the virus landed on your dog, you would have to touch that and then touch your nose, eyes or mouth for it to enter your system and then your system would have to take up the infection!
Hand sanitiser (if you can get hold of any) can sometimes make our dogs sneeze. Avoid putting your hands too close to your dog’s face when you first put it on. The strong smell fades quickly and this will reduce any temporary discomfort for your dog.
Pay attention to any sudden changes in your dog’s behaviour. Any time you notice sudden changes consider if it might be a medical issue. If your dog has lost his or her appetite or is lethargic for instance, that would likely warrant a call to your vet. If your dog is chewing on the furniture or digging the yard, that might be a sign of boredom.
If you do have a vet issue, call your vet to find out what their process is now. This too might change without notice. They may prefer a phone or video consult or they might ask you to wait outside the clinic until you are called. Some vet clinics are asking to see the dog without the person coming in to the clinic. Understand that new procedures are also a work in progress, that staff may be stressed and under additional pressures. If it is important to you to be with your dog for the consultation or treatment, be patient with the vet staff and ask kindly how this might be negotiated. It might be useful to take any videos or photos of your dog ahead of time so you can show these to the vet. For example, videos could be good to show lameness in your dog, a photo can be taken of a rash or wound on your dog’s skin. You could also enlist the help of someone to film or take a photo. Recently I had a dog that was barking in concern at a statue. As I have an iPhone, I asked a man nearby if he had an iPhone. He did and he was happy to take some footage of my dog so that I could have both hands free and work with my dog and capture all of that on film. We were then able to use the Airdrop feature for a way to transfer the video from his phone to mine, without trading phone numbers and without making physical contact!
When I was first taught about medicating a dog or holding them for a vet visit, it was mostly focused on how to restrain the dog so we can do things TO our dog. Nowadays, there’s a lot of people getting huge success out of co-operative vet care. This means we teach our dogs to be a willing participant in their vet care. There are some great videos out there of dogs and other animals doing things such as standing patiently while they are getting an injection, taking blood, or opening their mouth to have their teeth cleaned. It is possible to train a dog to rest their chin on a towel for several minutes. This way the dog can learn to be handled and inspected. If the dog lifts her head off the towel, it is her way of saying she isn’t comfortable and you can stop. Have a think about your own dog and is there anything they’re not happy with? You might be able to improve it. Maybe your dog hates his feet being touched or his nails clipped. Maybe your girl had some ear infections and she won’t let you near her ears. You can systematically work to improve their acceptance of these things. Firstly, you must stop doing the thing that they don’t like. If this is a current medical need such as taking tablets, medicating ears or other requirements, please don’t stop providing your dog with necessary care. Chat to your vet or a good quality dog trainer to see how you can work around this. Let’s look at nail trimming. Make sure you have some delicious treats – this will help your dog change his feelings from being uncomfortable to thinking “yay” this predicts yummy treats. If your dog doesn’t like you touching his paw, where on the leg will he let you touch? You might have to touch all the way up the shoulder, or he might be ok with you touching halfway down. Touch the shoulder, then a second later give him a treat. You want the touch to predict a treat. Do this 5 times (touch then treat, touch then treat, etc). If he is comfortable with 4-5 repetitions, then move down the leg a little. Do this with 5 treats, then again move down a little. You can vary things such as the hand pressure, the duration of the touch, or if there are distractions around. If your dog flinches or moves away, that’s valuable communication. Thank your dog for letting you know he’s not comfortable and make it easier the next time. Don’t over-train this, just do up to two minutes at a time with a few hours between sessions. If you skip a day or a few days, no problem at all – that could be valuable rest time for his brain to absorb what has just happened. If you notice your dog is getting worse or avoiding your touch, rather than more tolerant or enthusiastic, take a break and seek further advice. For more specific support about your individual dog’s needs, you are welcome to book a phone consultation where we can develop an individualised training plan.
Does your dog have experience being in a crate? I suspect most dog guides do. You can do some crate training if you have access to one at home. It is really important that they can feel comfortable and safe in a crate as if they need to have a vet stay, this is where they will likely spend some time.