Shepherding Hens: Exercising Our Dog During the Coronavirus Staycation

We tried many ways to tire out German Shepherd Moxie while sheltering in place during coronavirus. None worked nearly so well as herding chickens!

The coronavirus lockdown has Moxie dreaming of more active, outdoor days.

Relatively early on in the coronavirus outbreak, the Guatemalan president closed the borders, suspend public transportation, and issued a stay-at-home order for all nonessential workers. It goes without saying that the lockdown has made it pretty challenging to maintain production because, hard is it might be for us to accept, Ruff on the Road’s artisan partners aren’t considered ‘essential workers’.

Otherwise, we’re very fortunate that our most immediate challenge during these early days of life in the time of coronavirus has been finding ways to tire out rambunctious, three-year-old, German Shepherd Moxie without access to the public places where we took her for a daily run, swim, and fetch up until two weeks ago BC (before coronavirus).

Moxie can't hardly go a single day without running, fetching, swimming or fighting

We’re lucky to have a small garden at our home in Panajachel but it doesn’t take Good Will Hunting to do the math:

if an adolescent German Shepherd needs 30 fetch throws to tire her out and our garden is one-quarter the size of her normal ‘fetch court’, then how many at-home-in-the-garden fetch throws does our Moxie need to avoid becoming the long-toothed, fur-coated Wild Queen of Destruction and Mayhem?

Answer: more than our throwing arms can manage.

During the first few days of sheltering-in-place the number of in-garden fetch throws far outpaced the number of new COVID-19 cases. We played tug, practiced training her to speak! and then quiet!, and planted treats throughout the garden and then told her to search!

For a lot of dogs, a half hour or so of these activities would tucker them out enough to sleep through the night. But our Moxie has the heart of a locomotive and the stamina of a raging bushfire. So, for her, these activities were like pointing a garden hose at the flames when what’s needed is for CAL FIRE to drop water from a C-130 Airtanker.

After just a few days we were growing desperate. Then, we discovered the silver bullet for slaying the werewolf that resides in our beloved housedog, and it has changed the course of our coronavirus staycation completely.

Tuckered out after chasing the hens all around the garden, even at rest Moxie is hypervigilant

Each evening we let our eight hens out of the chicken coop to free range throughout the garden. Moxie's new coronavirus lockdown-inspired exercise regimen is to shepherd the hens around the garden – always under strict supervision, of course.

Herding hens isn’t much different than herding cats, except hens can’t climb trees and they aren’t at all aggressive. More importantly still, Moxie hasn’t sworn an everlasting blood oath against chickens like she has against all cats.

It turns out to be a frenetic and exhausting activity, and Moxie shows no sign of growing bored with it. Moreover, with eight mutha’ clucka’s on the loose and hen-peckin’ in every direction, Moxie barely has time to bother one before she has to bolt off and round up another.

Pyjama-ed Jess closely supervised Moxie while she licks her chops among the hens

Unfortunately, not everyone has garden space or a free-birding flock of hens, so we’d love for you to share any clever games, activities, or solutions that you’ve come up with to exercise your dog during these trying and unusual times.


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Los Angeles, CA, USA + Panajachel, Guatemala