How fostered, adopted pets can thrive during coronavirus outbreak

While we quarantine with pets — whether fosters or permanent members of our families — she said there are things we can do to help them realize their potential.

For starters, puppies need positive exposure to as many different experiences as possible. While it can be challenging during social distancing , Queen noted there are still ways to familiarize them with the world.

“Take lots of walks on different routes in all kinds of weather,” she said. “You can plan ahead so you have to pass by construction sites, buses, cars, strollers, skateboards, bikes, you name it — and you can do it all at a safe distance.”

When you pass by those things, try to get the pup excited with delicious treats and pay attention to their body language to make sure they don’t seem fearful or overwhelmed (if they do, take a break). You can also arrange play dates with another young, vaccinated dog who hasn’t been exposed to anyone who’s tested positive for COVID-19.

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Inside, create obstacle courses for puppies with cardboard, plastic bags and tinfoil to walk over to practice feeling different textures under their paws.

Turn an empty pancake-syrup bottle into a portable squirtable water bottle.

“They’re at a period of time in their life when their little brains are just soaking up everything around them," said Queen, "so the more that they can be exposed to when they’re puppies, in a really positive way, the better they will react to those things in the future.”

Exposing puppies to a variety of sounds, such as vacuum cleaners, hair dryers and lawn mowers, in a positive way will help these noises seem normal and nonthreatening.Courtesy of Michelle Rose

Dogs of all ages benefit from enrichment exercises that stimulate their brains, from learning a new trick to searching for treats in “snuffle mats” or hidden in egg cartons, boxes or toilet paper rolls. Queen said many dogs enjoy “pupsicles.”

“You cut up treats or dog-safe foods into little pieces and freeze them into a cup of water. Then you can pop out that ice block and let them enjoy licking at it and trying to get down to the food,” she said.

Puzzle feeders are a great idea for both dogs and cats, so long as they’re separated from other household pets while playing with them. Cats can also have fun batting around a plastic bottle cap or pouncing on paper bags (be sure to cut off the handles first so they don’t get stuck). Hanging a bird feeder outside a window provides visual stimulation throughout the day.

Use a Bright Colored Bandana On Your Dog During Hunting Season. Make sure both you & your dog stick out if you’re going to be out walking during hunting season. You can wear bright colors (orange is preferred), and you can help keep your dog safe by having them wear a bright orange bandana.

Alone time is also important to get used to for when stay-at-home orders are lifted, so Queen suggested setting up a cozy area away from your remote work or school space so they can take a nap or enjoy a chew toy.