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Depending on the type and intensity of a natural disaster or pandemic, it may be safer for you and your dog to stay where you are than to evacuate. FEMA advises that sheltering in place is appropriate when “conditions require that you seek immediate protection in your home, place of employment, school, or other location when disaster strikes.” Sheltering in place is not intended to be long-term; FEMA says it should only be for a few hours, not days or weeks.

While you may think you know what “sheltering in place” means, it’s important to understand the actual definition: According to the American Red Cross, “Shelter in place means selecting a small, interior room, with no or few windows, and taking refuge there. It does not mean sealing off your entire home or office building.” It also does not mean that you and your dog have to stay exactly where you are: Depending on the threat, such as during a tornado, flood, or earthquake, you may have to move to another room inside your home to remain safe.

Another reason you may need to shelter at home is a mandated quarantine or self-quarantine during an illness or pandemic. In these situations, you are usually able to move about your house, and even your backyard or neighborhood depending on the severity.

Reasons you may be advised to shelter/stay at home include:

  • Unsafe air quality.
  • Roads are too dangerous for travel, due to washed-out roads, downed wires, or trees, or large amounts of snow or ice.
  • High winds and flying debris.
  • Health pandemic
  • Mandated quarantine or self-quarantine due to a virus or other illness

If you have to shelter at home with your dog:

For a quarantine:

  • Know the location of your dog’s food and medication and make sure you have enough supply to last you the duration of your quarantine
  • Since dogs can get restless if cooped up inside, have toys on-hand to keep your dog stimulated. You can make your own toys at home, or buy interactive toys online
  • Keep your dog stimulated by keeping up a routine and continuing training. There are plenty of ways you can continue training for dog sports at home, including Agility, Rally, and Scent Work.
  • Dogs know when panic is in the air, so try to remain as calm as possible.

For a natural disaster:

  • Make sure your dog is inside. If it’s unsafe for you to be outside, it’s unsafe for him, too.
  • Know the location of your dog’s emergency “go bag.” It should have already been stocked with extra food, water, first-aid kit, and other essentials your dog needs.
  • Take your dog with you to a room that is safe. The room’s location is based on whether you are sheltering from a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, flood, or blizzard. If there’s a wildfire, it’s best to take your dog and leave the premises immediately.
  • Bring a battery-operated radio to ensure that you can get updates from emergency officials even if the power goes out, or your phone and Internet connections are down.
  • If time allows, move your dog’s favorite bed or blanket to your safe room, so that you can make him comfortable until the threat passes.
  • Since dogs can get restless if cooped up inside, bring items to keep him engaged, such as toys, games, and learning activities.
  • Make sure your dog has a place to relieve himself, if he can’t go outside. Keeping puppy pee pads on hand can be useful for this purpose, as can potty training your dog to go indoors. Have cleaning supplies on hand, in case of an accident.
  • Keep your dog away from the windows. Debris may fly around during a major storm due to high winds. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that flying debris is the most common cause of injury during a hurricane.
  • Be ready for you and your dog to leave at any moment. Keep his leash and any necessary travel gear near the exit, and make sure you refer to your emergency evacuation plan.
  • Dogs know when panic is in the air, so try to remain as calm as possible.

No matter what, use good judgment: Stay inside or at home with your dog until you hear or see an official message that the threat is over. If authorities tell you to evacuate, listen to them. Nothing is worth risking harm to yourself or your dog.

Stuck at home? Here are ways to keep your dog entertained indoors.

The AKC is here to help owners with questions and concerns about COVID-19 and dogs. Find answers to your questions, plus at-home activity ideas, training tips, educational resources, and more on our Coping With COVID-19 hub.
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