Can I walk my dog if there’s a lockdown? What precautions should I take?
Coronavirus regulations on walking your dog vary from country to country with the US and UK currently being more relaxed and southern European countries like Italy and Spain being much more strict.
Even if you are in the UK or US, good practice may be to now start observing some of the stricter European requirements to stop the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus and keep all of our pets safe.
Recommendations for walking your dog during a coronavirus lockdown
- Keep your dog on a leash.
- Maintain social distancing of at least two metres between yourself and other dog walkers.
- Limit any social contact - do not stop to chat, nor gather in groups.
- Try to find walks that are less frequently used by other dog walkers.
- Stay away from dog parks and other public areas.
- Walks should be mainly to meet a dogs toileting needs and as short as possible to minimise time outdoors. Don’t stop to play games or throw a ball.
- Reduce the number of walks you normally do, for example from three to two times a day.
- Take your dog for a walk either very early in the morning or late at night when there is less chance of bumping into other dog walkers.
- Take poo bags and a small bottle of water with washing up liquid to wash away any urine.
- When you arrive home, clean your dog’s paws and tail with an antibacterial gel then wash your hands thoroughly.
Country specific regulations:
At the time of writing, residents in the UK have been told to avoid bars, restaurants and cafes where possible so this will curtail the activities of people who would normally go out with their dog to enjoy a coffee or a meal. However, under a mass coronavirus isolation plan announced by the government, elderly people over 70 will be asked to self-isolate for a period of four months, at a time yet to be determined. Although full guidance has yet to be published, over 70s with no symptoms will still be allowed outside to walk their dog.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued some strict guidance on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. This includes preventing people from entering your home who do not have an essential need to be there, including dog walkers. But you can accept a food delivery or sign for a package, whether you are in quarantine or self-isolation.
Other recommendations are to avoid public places and not to take your dog on a hike in the woods but it’s fine to walk your dog in your local area.
On March 17, Justin Trudeau announced that entry to Canada would be denied to people who are not Canadian citizens, or permanent residents with exceptions for air crews, diplomats, immediate family members of Canadian citizens, and at this time, US citizens. Current advice is if you need to walk your dog, use your backyard only.
As of midnight on Saturday 14 March 2020, the whole of Spain has been in a state of lockdown, although each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities has a slight degree of flexibility in how strictly they apply the rules, mainly dependent on how populated they are.
Throughout the country, people who have not been diagnosed with Covid-19 may leave the house for ‘essential reasons’ such as supplies of food and medicine but only one person per household at any one time. Supplies of food includes pet food of course so some pet shops are staying open.
President Sanchez has been clear on several occasions: the state of emergency still allows you to walk your dog. You must keep your dog on a leash, maintain social distancing, not allow your dog to pull you towards other dogs and not stop to chat to other dog owners as this could result in a fine. Only one person may walk their dog at any time.
If you live in Madrid, the Ayuntamiento (city hall) has closed all public parks and gardens so you won’t be able to enter with your dog. Some beaches have also been closed to everyone, irrespective of whether they have a dog or not.
In an act of total irresponsibility and lack of care for others, some people are ‘lending’ their dogs to friends, neighbours and complete strangers so that they are able to legitimately be outdoors.
In Italy, the Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali (National Board For Animal Protection) has clarified that you can take your dog for a walk as ‘taking your dog for a walk is necessary for his or her well-being and ours too’.
The government-imposed restrictions do not prohibit the movement of people and animals within the same municipal area but you must be careful to not go beyond it. In this case, if stopped by the police, you risk a penalty, since this is not one of the three reasons of proven need established by the government (medical, working or mandatory needs).
On paper, the restrictions are clear: residents must avoid “every movement” outside their immediate areas except for work, health care or activities of “strict necessity” such as grocery shopping. Italians have been told to carry paperwork with them at all times with details of where they are going and why. Police are checking documents in many public areas and ordering people to return home with a hefty fine if their paperwork does not tally with their whereabouts.
As of midnight on 16 March 2020, France introduced the same lockdown restrictions as in other European countries. For dog walkers, this means keeping your dog on a leash, maintaining social distancing, not allowing your dog to pull you towards other dogs and not stopping to chat to other dog owners as this could result in a fine. Only one person may walk their dog at any time.