Our PM, Jacinda Ardern has urged people to maintain a “bubble” during the level 4 alert. That means we are not allowed to socialise outside of the immediate people we live with at the moment. I like the bubble analogy it works for me. Only one problem, bubbles are a very delicate and if mistreated can break very quickly. So, there is a social obligation that we all need to uphold for our bubbles to stay intact.
I also get the 2 metre rule for the health and safety of everyone. You can still engage in a conversation across the street from 2 metres. Having a chat with your neighbour and checking on the elderly living in your street should still be fine to do safely.
We all understand that this virus is a nasty one and pretty contagious, being passed to one another by fluids from our bodies, where the virus particles hide. A sneeze can travel at speeds of up to 160kmph, so even at 2 meters you’d like to think your friend opposite would cover their nose.
But where do our dogs fit into this Bubble picture?
Well your pet needs to be included in this bubble as well according to Professor David Hayman, an infectious disease ecology expert at Massey University’s veterinary science school and should be treat the safe as a person.
He was quoted recently in a stuff.co.nz article as saying, “If I cough on my hands, stroke a dog’s head, and then a kid comes along, strokes the dog’s head, and then touches their face … that’s a way of transferring infection.”
He was also quoted as saying ‘People should be conscious of contact with their own pet too. Hands are fine if washed, but faces should be kept apart because the virus can enter through the nose and mouth”
So where does that leave us when we need to exercise our dogs? From a behavioural perspective I strongly encourage people to continue walking their dogs, but walk them on a lead at ALL times. And do not let anyone else stroke them or interact with them. Keep them in your bubble.
I was horrified to read on a Facebook post I read today, that people were letting their dogs run off lead in a public area. If two dogs were to play together, there would be a chance that the virus could be passed from dog to dog on their coats. This in turn could be transferred to the unexpected owner.
Now I know the chances are very slim, but do you want to take the risk, and more to the point do you have the right to put someone else in danger, even if it is a very slight chance?
So, keep your dogs on a lead.
Hayman also encourages people to keep their feline friends at home as well. Cats are notorious for roaming and visiting multiple owners. Once again, the chance for transference is very possible.
Dogs do need cardio-exercise for sure to keep fit, but you can also exercise your dog with toy play. Not throwing a ball but play tug games. Dogs love this and as you are holding one end of the tug toy, they are certainly staying within your bubble. But don’t make it a battle, if your dog doesn’t let go of the tug toy just drop the it and pick up another one.
Dr Helen Beattie, chief veterinary officer for the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA), confirmed that our pets need to stay in our bubbles. She has been quoted as encouraging people to use pets as “a source of comfort”. But states “for people who have recently returned from overseas or have been in close contact with a confirmed coronavirus case, it would “make some sense” to reduce contact with pets.”
Spending time in a Mindful way with your dog is a great idea, coronavirus or otherwise. It will help you and your dog to unwind. I always spend a few minutes at the end of the evening with one of my dogs. I’ll give my dog a massage. It’s a great way to reduce stress. Stress has been directly linked with behavioural issues so this can only be a good thing.
It’s important to realise that the World Health Organisation have reported 2 cases of dogs that have been tested positive for the Covid-19 virus following close contact with their infected owners. Neither if the dogs displayed any symptoms. The American Veterinary Association guidelines at present are that dogs cannot transfer the virus to humans via saliva or other secretions, but transference via fur may be possible.