As local dog trainers heed the call to stay indoors and social distance themselves and their pets during the COVID-19 pandemic, many have been forced to shut their businesses.
But some trainers have developed a new way to connect with their clients and ensure dogs are trained and owners are having fun.
Helen Prinold is the owner of Dog Friendship and she, along with trainers from JV Training, Dogs in the Park, One Leg Up Canine and others have set up a Facebook page called the ‘30 Day Covid19 Dog Training and Enrichment Challenge.’
“Anybody who has a dog and is at home can do a bit of training,” said Prinold. “The challenges are different levels. Our goal is for every dog trainer in Guelph to get something up online and keep in touch with their clients.”
Challenges include balancing a treat on a dog’s nose, jumping through a hoop and obeying commands. After the 30 days are over, the group will be used for posting suggestions on helping dogs cope with being alone once the time comes. The group currently has hundreds of followers and has garnered interest and participation in Guelph and beyond.
Prinold is also the chair of the Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers (CAPDT). She says the organization is making important recommendations to pet owners during the global COVID-19 pandemic, particularly those with puppies.
“The biggest piece of information we want to convey is that puppies eight to 14 weeks old have a very critical timeline when they have to learn how this world works,” she said. “Puppies [need to] get out and see things while maintaining safe social distances.”
She suggests going for walks with puppies to allow them to smell and see new things, but she stresses the importance of not letting other people or pets touch them while social distancing recommendations are still in place.
The CAPDT is also advising pet owners to keep a minimum of three weeks’ worth of food and prescription medication for pets on hand. People that are sick or showing symptoms should wear a mask and handle their pets as little as possible - not to avoid transmitting to the pet (which experts say is not a risk at this time) but to avoid transmitting to other humans via pets.
With many independent businesses closing to the public indefinitely, online communities are becoming an increasingly important tool for maintaining contact with clients. Prinold says many dog trainers across the country are turning to online classes and she encourages dog owners to continue to support them as best they can.
“It’s a very challenging time right now and we’re a struggling group,” she said. “We hope that people posting in the [Facebook] group will let us [and our clients] see their dogs. The challenge we think is a novel one and we’re hoping that we’re sparking interest all over.”
For dog owners seeking more online training support and enrichment opportunities, Prinold suggests browsing the education menu on www.capdt.ca.