How to socially distance with your dog

Woman walking dog

Though researchers continue to learn more about COVID-19, to date there is no evidence that pets play a significant role in spreading the virus to humans. That said, in a handful of cases the virus does appear to have spread from people to animals after close contact with an infected person. So, while the risk of animals contracting or spreading COVID-19 remains low, the CDC still recommends limiting your pet’s exposure to people or other animals outside of your household as a precaution.

But as you spend more time outside with your dog by venturing out for walks or even local dog-friendly patios, how exactly can you keep you and your pup six feet away from other dogs (and dog-lovers)? We’ve gathered a few tips to help you successfully navigate social distancing with a social pooch.

Six tips for social distancing with your dog

  1. Stay close to home. Limiting your outings to your immediate neighborhood can have its advantages. If you live in or near a quiet neighborhood with streets and sidewalks, these allow you more opportunity to keep your distance or cross the street if needed. In addition, if you stick to an area where you know more of the people you might encounter, you may feel more comfortable asking them to maintain a six-foot distance from you and your companion.
  2. Avoid dog parks and busy trails. Crowded areas, paths with two-way walking traffic, and off-leash outings make it much harder to keep your dog close and avoid interaction with others. Finding a less popular walking path or sticking to quiet neighborhood streets still provides the opportunity to give your pup some exercise while enabling social distancing.
  3. Choose quieter times of day. Live in an active community with lots of people around after work or school? Try walking during a less busy time of day to avoid surrounding foot traffic — like early in the morning or midday.
  4. Maintain your pup’s attention. If you have an especially social pup who’s eager to greet people or other dogs while you’re out and about, it’s important to be aware and proactive to prevent unwanted exposure. Carry treats with you to redirect their attention and encourage desired behavior like heeling. If you need help with this and other behavior goals, sign up for in-person or virtual obedience courses taught by our expert team of trainers.  
  5. Skip the patio. A picnic in the park is a great alternative to a public patio with your dog. Pack a cooler or grab takeout from a local business and enjoy a meal al fresco alongside your best friend. If you still find that a dog-friendly patio is calling your name, pick one that offers plenty of room between tables, visit during less popular hours, and keep your dog on a short leash to limit them wandering too close to other patrons.
  6. Use visual cues. Wear your mask while out with your dog and take steps to stay six or more feet away when approaching others. This may mean crossing the street while on a walk (as long as it’s safe to do so) or purposefully giving others a wide berth when crossing paths.

Even when taking precautions to keep your distance, you may still encounter a friendly passerby — human or canine — who’s interested in meeting your pup. Don’t be afraid to politely ask that they keep their distance, or simply let them know that Fido isn’t up for socializing today.

Do you have a COVID-19 plan for your pet?

In the event that you’re temporarily unable to care for your pet as a result of COVID-19, be sure you have a plan in place to ensure their health and well-being. These three steps will help you be prepared in case of emergency.

For caring, compassionate advice and resources to address all your animal concerns.

Contact the Pet Helpline