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Go Small or Stay Home: Shifting our Focus in the Time of COVID-19

At a time of year when we would often be loading up for our first adventure of the spring, or getting ideas in place for a big summer trip, we are being asked to scrap plans, stay home, and limit all non-essential travel. As adventurers, being told to stay put can feel stifling, but there are still so many ways we can get out with our dogs! Having a senior dog with pretty severe arthritis has been preparing for me for this age of mini-adventures, and it’s time for us to put our new routines to the test. Below, I offered some tips and guidelines for making the most out of your close-to-home outings during these next few weeks.

Stay close to home, be sure to follow local and national guidelines, and respect closures. Many states have implemented “shelter in place” protocol, which limits non-essential trips. Fortunately, walks are considered essential for mental and physical health, so walk on! Now is the time to check out all the little nooks and crannies of your local area that you have passed up before in lieu of bigger adventures. Remember social distancing protocol and keep 6’ or more between yourself and other walkers (if your dog doesn’t have perfect recall, this is a great time to keep them on a leash so you don’t have to approach other walkers to grab your dog). If you see that a trailhead is particularly busy (or closed), choose a different place for your walk.
Man walks dog on roamer leash along road.
Photos Contributed by Ruffwear Ambassador Laura Patton

See old places in new ways. Our driveway connects directly to a state highway, and as such we usually drive to trails or off-highway locations for our walks. But with the decreased traffic, we’ve been able to walk right out our driveway and down the highway to new places we haven’t yet explored. Is your schedule suddenly flexible? Try walking your usual route at a different time of day. Try making up a new route through your neighborhood or practice a new training skill on your walks.

Your dog is excited to be out with you – no matter what. Your buddy doesn’t know that you just cancelled a really cool camping trip that he would have loved.  He’s just excited to be spending time with you. Any walk, training session, or outing together is a highlight of his day. Try to mirror that attitude, and appreciate the time you have together. Star is always super happy to walk around the block with me, no matter how many times we’ve done it, or how mundane it may seem to me compared to past adventures together. Seeing the spring in her step every time we go out reminds me how lucky I am to spend time with her.

Man next to bike with dog on omnijore system.
Get your systems dialed. Try setting up your new tent in the backyard and camping out for a night.  Put together an adventure kit to keep in your car. Now is a great time to prepare for future adventures by getting your gear game up to speed.  Knowing your systems will make adventures in the future easier, and help motivate you to take more mini-trips when time is limited. The more practice you have getting ready for a trip, the more likely you are to spring into action for a quick over-nighter when the opportunity presents itself.
in-tent selfie with two humans and dog in middle.
Remember that this is temporary. The current situation is not forever! The things you learn about yourself and your dog while practicing close to home adventures will be tools you can apply to future trips and more epic outings. The ability to make the most out of each little excursion with your dog is an important skill, which will continue to be applicable in the future.
Man walks dog on roamer leash.
What tips do you have for getting out with your dog in these unprecedented times?  How have you changed your routines? How are you making the most of your small adventures? Let us know in the comments!