By Jacqueline G. Goodwin, Ed.D.
Welcome to the Pandemic Puppy Club! So you finally gave in. You always thought about a getting a dog, but when the coronavirus pandemic became a real thing you decided to take the plunge. Congratulations! You’re not alone.
Many people became first-time pet owners since the coronavirus pandemic arrived last spring. Adoption and foster rates of adult dogs and puppies have never been higher. The ASPCA has seen a nearly 70 percent increase in animals going into foster care compared with the same period in 2019. According to the ASPCA website, this surge in the number of fosters and adoptions nationwide is because sheltering in place has allowed people the time to tend to a new dog.
“When the pandemic first hit, unprecedented numbers of people signed up to foster animals,” says Julie Castle, the chief executive of Best Friends Animal Society. “Some shelters completely emptied their kennels for the first time ever. In the middle of a crisis, many groups saved more lives than they ever had before. There is no reason we cannot keep these positive gains we made during the pandemic.”
Many first time adopters who have been working from home with their new pet have discovered the secret reality of what dogs really do all day: They mostly sleep, with a bit of eating and playing mixed in.
Now that you are the fur parent of a pandemic puppy or older adult dog, what can you do to ensure that you can provide your pet with a good home well after the pandemic ends. Both The Humane Society of Harrisburg and the ASPCA offer the following many tips to make sure your pandemic puppy receives the love and care it deserves. Go to The Humane Society’s website at www.humanesocietyhbg.org for additional tips and puppy parent resources.
Establish a Routine
• Keep your pandemic pup’s day to day routine as consistent as possible. Feeding and potty trips should be provided around the same time every day. Talk to your family about how to make this work. A consistent routine will help your pandemic pup adjust and know what to expect.
Pet-Proof Your Home
• Make sure there are no hanging cords from blinds that can get wrapped around your pet’s neck.
• Get rid of toxic plants like African violets, certain types of daisies and lilies, daffodils and other potted plants and cut flowers. Dogs can become ill if they chew on them.
Walk Your Pandemic Pup
• Take your pandemic pup for walks while maintaining a safe social distance. Go out in all types of weather. Walk on different types of surfaces so your pup continually experiences new things. Keep at least six feet away when walking past other people and dogs.
Visit the Vet
• Some dogs may have already received their vaccinations from animal shelters. If not, check with a local veterinarian about annual vaccines, boosters, and spaying and neutering. If your new pet gets ill and needs to see a veterinarian, locate the nearest emergency veterinary clinic.
• Talk to your pet’s veterinarian about appropriate foods to feed your new companion. Many brands offer kitten, adult, puppy and senior varieties. Though you may be tempted to spoil your pandemic pup, limit treats and don’t overfeed him.
• Boredom and excess energy are two common reasons for undesirable behavior in pets. Go for walks, runs and hikes with your dog or play interactive games like fetch.
• You can also keep your pandemic pup busy with interactive food-puzzles or other toys.
• Dogs should also be brushed. If you have a pup with fur, like a poodle or another breed that doesn’t shed, you might want to schedule a visit with a groomer.
• The ASPCA recommends bathing your dog at least once every three months, though some dogs require more frequent baths.
• Downtime allows us to bond with our pandemic pup and to prepare him for when we return to our regular work and school routines. Your pandemic pup may be confused and lonely once everyone is rushing out the door instead of spending time at home. While you and your family are home, start to prepare your pandemic pup now and designate time for him to spend enjoyable time alone throughout the day.”
• Try taking strolls outside without your pandemic pup so you can make sure he is comfortable when you’re away.
Create a space for him
• Choose an area where your pandemic pup will be spending most of his time. The area you choose should be easily accessible for you to make routine visits, to be sure he feels included and not left out. For example, a kitchen may work best, just in case your pup has an accident. Gates will provide confinement to certain areas of the house and block off areas you don’t wish for your pandemic pup to visit.
• Contact a behavior professional for assistance if your pandemic pet is showing signs of distress. Dogs know when you are about to leave the house. Your dog may follow you from room to room or start pacing, barking, howling or whining. While you are out, your pup may chew or scratch furniture. Training can prevent those undesirable behaviors. Many pet behaviorists and trainers are offering virtual appointments.
Call an Expert
• Schedule virtual training sessions early to curb undesirable behaviors. The trainer or behaviorist can provide you with tips for helping your new pet adjust to your home.