Lockdown was hard. It was hard for our businesses, our jobs, our groups, our family, our social life. For those of us that had pets, you may agree that they had it better. While some were missing their favourite activities such as agility, many owners came up with creative ways to engage their dogs at home as well as taking them on long daily walks as a way of both human and owner getting out of the house. For many of us, our pets were our only consistent company and a reason to get out each day and a reason to laugh. According to Pets and the Pandemic, by Animal Medicines Australia, ‘Owners said that pets had a positive impact on their lives throughout the pandemic because they provided joy, comfort and were good for mental health.’
There has been some long lasting issues for people after lockdown, the biggest being the fear of going back out into the community again and many people are living in a very similar way to how they were during lockdown. Lockdown has caused anxiety for many and has made it difficult to reconnect post lockdown.
Some of the anxieties include:
-Changes to routine
-Concern about getting sick
-Previous mental health issues being triggered (for people with conditions such as anxiety/agraphia or PTSD, being home all the time may have actually decreased these issues).
–Increased travel or workload as the we go, ‘back to normal’.
-How our children will cope returning to school.
While we are aware that some of our Doggie Dates members have not been (or were not) comfortable to return to our walks, we have seen a gradual increase of participants over the last few weeks.
Walking our dogs is possibly one of the safest, social activities we can do while maintaining social distance at the same time. Outdoors activities are definitely safer and activities where we can engage with people from a distance is fantastic. Exercise naturally helps us to feel better not only physically but also mentally and may reduce the risk of developing mental illness.
Additionally, during the pandemic many people purchased new pets, especially dogs. Pets and the Pandemic states that, ‘Pandemic restrictions may have created an opportunity for Australians to introduce a previously desired pet into the family, rather than the pandemic being the reason itself for acquiring a pet.’ As arrangements for working have been home based or shorter hours with more flexibility, it has enabled many individuals and families to get pets for the first time. One thing we have heard at Doggie Dates is that on the negative side, new pets are less socialised and have missed out on important interactions and experiences that a new puppy would generally have. Now is the crucial time to make the most of the end of restrictions and get dogs out and about. Doggie Dates offers the perfect environment for this because dogs are leashed for walks and owners are responsible but additionally members do not judge you or your dog for their behaviour. We work on it as a group.
Financially we know that many people are struggling. ‘Due to the economic impact of COVID-19, many Australians have experienced changes to their employment, including job losses, stand downs and reductions in working hours,’ (Australian Government, Financial wellbeing and COVID-19). A beautiful aspect of Doggie Dates is that you can fully participate without paying a cent to be involved. There are not many social activities that you can participate in without any cost.
While we know we can not ‘fix’ your anxiety about getting out into the world again, we can promise that we do respect your personal space and you will feel safe and comfortable after attending one of our walks. Additionally, you will get to talk to many different people from all walks of life while walking at a distance that is comfortable for you and your dog. Additionally you will receive ideas and encouragement on how to socialise your covid purchased pup.
If you have any questions or concerns please contact us, we’d love to talk you through them. It is possible to reconnect in a way that is safe and enjoyable for you and your pup after lockdown.
RESOURCES TO CHECK OUT
-Better Health Channel, Exercise and Mental Health
-University of Western Australia – Why you might feel anxious returning to normal after lockdown.
-Families in Australia Survey, Life during COVID-19. Report no. 6, Financial wellbeing and COVID-19
-Animal Medicines Australia