What do the new COVID-19 guidelines mean for me and my dog?

The government announced new guidance earlier this week for England on the relaxing of rules under the current COVID-19 pandemic. The NEW message has changed from ‘Stay at Home’ to ‘Stay Alert’:

“Stay Alert

  • stay at home as much as possible
  • work from home if you can
  • limit contact with other people
  • keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
  • wash your hands regularly

Do not leave home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms”

The NEW advice includes changes to leaving the house for exercise.

This was probably very welcome news to some dog owners, myself included, who have particularly reactive dogs to certain things in the environment. But what have the government said exactly and how does that effect you?

Can I get in the car to take my dog for a walk?

The government have eased the restrictions on how far you can travel for exercise or for an activity. You can now travel to ‘outdoor open space irrespective of distance’

You should however ‘practice social distancing’ meaning you MUST stay 2 metres apart from everyone. This now means that you can travel to take your dog on a walk, whereas before, the exercise had to be from your doorstep.

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The government also suggests that you CAN visit the beach or other beauty spots.

Their website states that you can ‘drive to outdoor open spaces, including beaches and beauty spots, irrespective of distance – you should travel in a private vehicle, alone or with members of your own household’

Have they found any evidence of Coronavirus in pets?

The government website indicates that there is still no evidence of this. Specifically it says:

‘There is no evidence of coronavirus circulating in pets or other animals in the UK and there is nothing to suggest animals may transmit the disease to humans. In line with the general advice on fighting coronavirus, you should wash your hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals’

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Can I visit the vets for my dog’s checkup?

All non-essential visits to the vets have been cancelled. In fact, Buddy’s latest check-up and worming was cancelled. We queued two metres apart in the vet car park to collect his medication.

We have in the meantime also had an urgent visit which involved our cat Cleo getting into a nasty scrap with another cat. We waited in the car park for the vet to come out, who then took her from the car and examined her inside. It was all very well organised!

Make sure you ring your vets before turning up as they will all have their own individual opening hours and procedures. For example our local vets is closed and all visits are being carried out at their partner clinic in a nearby village.

The government’s website specifically states:

‘All non-essential trips to vets should be avoided. If your pet needs urgent treatment, you may take them, but must remember to wash your hands and remain 2 metres away from anyone outside your household. You must call the vet before going to see them.’

Self Isolating

The government’s advice continues to be to self isolate for 7 days, or 14 days if you are in a household, and are displaying symptoms of COVID-19. So, what can you do about dog walking during this time? Their advice is:

‘If your dog cannot exercise at home, you should ask someone outside of your household to walk your dog for you. All non-essential trips to vets should be avoided. If your pet needs urgent treatment, you must phone the vet to arrange the best approach to meet your pets’ needs.’

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If you don’t have anyone to walk your dog, lots of dog walkers are slowly returning back to work. Check that your dog walker is fully equipped to keep you, and them, safe and that they are carrying out the best practice guidelines from a professional body.  The Kennel Club have issued some very helpful guidance here.

You can also check out my previous blog of fun stuff to do in lockdown which will give your dog a little workout whilst having fun at the same time!

Walking a dog on behalf of someone else

If are helping someone out because they are self isolating, shielding or are just unable to leave the house for whatever reason, the Governement’s advice is very clear below; but you may also want to check out the Kennel Club’s guidance which was issued for professional dog walkers.  It has some extra pointers that may keep you, and everyone else involved, safe.

‘You may also leave your house to provide care or help a vulnerable person. This includes walking a dog for someone who is unable to leave their house because they are self isolating or being shielded. You should remember to wash your hands before and after handling the dog and keep 2 metres away from other people and animals, including when handing over the dog to the owner.’

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Can I meet my friend for a walk?

The Government’s advice on this is clear, but they HAVEN’T given too many examples. Their website says:

You can ‘meet one other person from a different household outdoors – following social distancing guidelines’

and that you can:

‘spend time outdoors, including exercise, alone, with your household, or with one person who is not in your household as long as you stay two metres apart’

Now you can interpret this as you want – I am not going to say one way or another what you can and can’t do! Whatever you do, you must be sure that you are able to commit to the 2 metre social distancing.

Can I walk my dog off lead?

The only thing I could find on the Government’s website with regard to lead walking was under the countryside section where is mentions that dogs should be kept on a lead to respect farm animals by ‘keeping dogs under effective control and on a lead when you are around farm animals’ and ‘keeping to footpaths and following signs where they suggest alternative routes’. Presumably this is to allow for social distancing.

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To me, it would make sense to keep your dog on a lead when there are lots of people present, or on narrow paths, to avoid having to go near anyone if you can’t recall your dog back. It’s very much a case of common sense, (admittedly a lot of people seem to lack this!) and how well you know your own dog.  So for us ‘normal’ people – just be sensible!

I hope that has answered some questions you may have had.

All the information provided can be found in the links below:

Government COVID-19 Guidance

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do

Addition Government issud information regarding exercise in open spaces:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-guidance-on-access-to-green-spaces

Kennel Club Guidance for Pet Business Owners

https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/health/for-owners/coronavirus/advice-for-animal-related-businesses-and-local-authorities-during-covid-19

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