Your Dog & Covid-19
Updated: May 10, 2020
It may have taken a few weeks, but we are definitely getting better at this whole social distancing. I see more people observing the 6 feet rule and making space for each other. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for their dogs. I still see people taking their dog to the park, unclip the lead and the dog goes off doing their own thing, running up to everyone, jumping up at people and jumping all over every dog they meet.
The current guidelines on social distancing include dogs: The current guidance on access to green spaces states: “if walking your dog in areas used by other people, you should walk your dog on a lead to ensure you can safely keep 2 metres away from others.”
“But dogs cannot catch Covid-19!” I hear you scream. Well, yes, that is what we currently think. We do know that Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they can affect different species. However, that does not mean they will affect all species and even though there is some evidence that our feline friends may be able to catch it, the same does not seem to be true for our canine companions. So why keep the dog on a lead?
I believe there are a few reasons for this:
If your dog runs up to another dog or person and does not come back when called, you may have to go and retrieve your dog, breaking the 2 metre distancing rule in order to catch the naughty pupster.
The other dog your dog runs up to may not like to be set upon by a complete stranger and make this very clear - with their teeth. Vets are still only running emergency services which may make it more difficult to get your dog seen straight away if they were injured.
We are being warned not to touch this and that because viruses can survive on surfaces for anything in between a few hours and several days. We are being reminded to wash our hands thoroughly and often and not to touch our faces until we have done so. If the virus that lived on the shopping basket can transfer to our hands, our clothes and be carried around by us, why would it not survive on a dog’s coat? Of course the likelihood is that it would. I want to be able to kiss and cuddle my dog when I get home and so why would I want to take the risk of her fur getting contaminated by another dog jumping all over her? Of course I wouldn’t.
Under the Dangerous Dogs Act, you can be prosecuted if you dog puts someone "unreasonably into fear". In these unprecedented times, some people may be more anxious than usual and less accepting of being approached by unknown dogs. Remember that while you know your dog and know that they are friendly, other people may not and you don't know of the negative experiences they may have had with dogs in the past that might make them uneasy with even the friendliest dog approaching them.
My dog remains on lead whenever other people and dogs are about.