As we start off the month of May, with the weather warming up and the sun shining (finally!), EVERYONE wants to head outside. The dog needs to go for walks and so do you! But how do we maintain social distancing rules when there are so many other people and animals out as well? Even with increasing amounts of coronavirus, there are a few tips you can take to minimize your risks while out getting some fresh air, exercise, and vitamin D.
First, the WHERE and the WHEN. You want to avoid peak times and places. Take a remote trail in the woods rather than heading to the apartment’s dog run. Skip the parks and beaches, and walk the streets near your home. Try to go earlier in the morning before families are out, or later in the evening to avoid the after-dinner walkers. By heading outside when everyone else is inside, and going to the areas where there are less people, you are less likely to be exposed to coronavirus.
Secondly, etiquette. It is now socially acceptable to cross the street when someone else is coming, hurray! We dog-walkers have been doing this all along to avoid unknown canine situations, but now everyone is joining in. It is pretty impossible to maintain six feet of distance with both parties staying on the sidewalk, so the easiest thing to do is just to cross the street. If this is not possible, step onto the grass and away. You can smile and wave, or even give a thumbs up to the other person, but you want to maintain a minimum of six feet if at all possible. Do not let your dog approach other people or other animals. And your dog should ALWAYS be on a leash. This ensures that you can keep them away from other people and minimizes the risk of interaction. It is the safest for you and your pet. You should only be walking with your pet, or another member of your household. Meeting up with groups or running partners can increase your risk of exposure.
And lastly, the contact precautions and disinfection procedures. We have all seen the people walking outside with full-face gas masks and rubber gloves on. While each person is entitled to their own protection choices, this is usually unnecessary. Many local regulations and ordinances now require face coverings while in an indoor enclosed area, but not outside. Cloth masks can still be helpful while walking the dog or going outside. You can always wear it pulled down, then put it over your face and nose when you see someone else coming or are going into a populated area. Bring your own waste bags to avoid touching local bag dispensers. Carry your own water and dish so you do not have to use drinking fountains or community dog bowls (safer for your dog and yourself!). When dispensing dog poo or any other waste, try to use free-toss trash bins, meaning that you will not have to touch any part of a lid. If you must use trash with a lift lid or push flap, touch the container using a poo bag or glove, then dispose. Then immediately use hand sanitizer, before touching anything else. Avoid touching anything else along the walk, like fences, gates, etc. You can disinfect things like leashes, bag dispensers, and your phone regularly with cleaning wipes. Never use cleaning products or wipes like bleach or Lysol on your pet! Always wash your hands with warm soap and water upon returning home, even if you did not touch anything or come into contact with anyone.
Most likely, your pet is LOVING having you home more often during these times. Having a furry family member around can reduce your stress and anxiety, and heading outside is good for both of you! With these tips in mind, you can easily enjoy walks in the sun while maintaining safe social distancing practices.
For more information about coronavirus prevention, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/index.html
Sources: VCA Hospitals, Harvard Health Publishing/Harvard Medical School, PetSecure, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pet Partners, The Washington Post, HuffPost