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Words: Emily Shaw

Lockdown isn’t easy on anyone, but it’s an initiative we understand and have undertaken for the greater safety of our country. Unfortunately, it’s also a difficult thing to explain to the family furry friend, who, while delighted to have his or her owners at home, is probably getting as bad a cabin fever as the rest of us.

There are, however, a number of ways you can keep Fido entertained and give yourself a break and distraction at the same time.

For those with space

If you’re fortunate enough to have a long driveway inside your property or a generous garden, take on the Beep Test with your best friend. Ensure you have a good level of fitness to begin with and take it easy – this should be a fun activity for the more active among us and is not suitable for those who have injuries, sickness or low cardio fitness.

The Beep Test is a running tool that allows you to rate your base-level fitness. You’ll need to draw or demarcate two parallel lines 20m apart. The test is conducted by continuous running between these two lines, starting and stopping at a beep which decreases in timed intervals, causing you to run faster between the two lines to meet each line by the time the beep sounds. Encourage your dog to run with you as you move between the lines – improving both your fitness levels and getting some much-needed movement.

You can download an app on iOS or Google Play to help or simply google the Beep or Bleep Test and plug in the timed intervals to your own timer.

For those with limited space

Some of us might have a tiny garden, a courtyard or even no outdoor area at all and have relied solely on twice daily walks to exercise our pooches. If that’s the case, you still have several options to get your pup moving about.

Bubble Busting – scratch about in that old craft and party box and find a bottle of blowing bubbles, or make your own with dishwashing liquid, water and a wire coat-hanger bent into a circle shape. Bring Spot into the centre of a room and start to blow the bubbles, demonstrating how to bust them with your hand. Let a few land on your dog so that they aren’t afraid of this new magic and ensure when they get into it, that you turn around in circles blowing the bubbles and encourage jumping up, allowing the dog to do larger movements to increase the workout.

For those with chewers or barkers

Excessive chewing and barking can sometimes be a sign of boredom, which means your dog needs attention and mental stimulation. The following brain games are great fun for man and dog, and you’ll be surprised by how easy they are to recreate at home with no fancy equipment.

Drip feed

Make mealtimes a game by washing and drying a 2-litre cooldrink bottle (remove the labels) and pour your dog’s portion of pellets into the neck. Give the bottle to your dog and rattle it around for him or her, allowing one or two pellets to fall out. Once the dog realises food is inside, it will work hard for ages to rattle its rewards out of the bottle through pushing, pulling, pouncing and biting.

Formal training

There’s no time like lockdown to teach (or remind) Bruno to sit, lie down and stay – and you absolutely can teach an old dog new tricks. Patience and high value rewards are key to success. Tiny pieces of cut-up chicken, liver bread or biltong are all considered high value to dogs, meaning they’ll work harder and ignore distractions to obtain them. The best app (with built-in clicker!) for proper training techniques is Puppr and features how-tos from basic commands right through to agility feats.

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