The Coronavirus: Going to the Dogs

. July 21, 2020.
Four month old puppy, Mochi, sniffs a fire hydrant while on a walk with her family, the Hanauers: David, Sung, Shira (13), Sam (9), Jacob (7). Image courtesy of David Hanauer.
Four month old puppy, Mochi, sniffs a fire hydrant while on a walk with her family, the Hanauers: David, Sung, Shira (13), Sam (9), Jacob (7). Image courtesy of David Hanauer.

In a time when families are spending most of their days at home, adopting a new pet has emerged as a trend.  The appeal of being home to train, bond, and enjoy the new family addition has resulted in a pet-boom, especially with dogs.

 

Many local families, like the Bixlers, enhanced their quarantine with the addition of pets.  Jill Bixler said, “My husband and I both work and the kids used to have a fair number of activities…The kids asked for a dog for years, but I always told them it was unkind of us to get a dog when we weren’t home enough to train it or take care of it.  Then in March, the stay at home orders were put in place…I figured this was a once in their childhood opportunity to get a puppy and let them experience all the benefits of having a pet.  It is one small positive thing for the kids in the midst of all the worry and uncertainty they’ve had introduced into their lives…Coco has integrated into our family very well.  She is a great excuse to get the kids out for a walk and some fresh air.”

 

Jill joked, “Damian (age 5) was very concerned the first time that we took her to campus for a walk since she wasn’t wearing a mask like the rest of us…The puppy also helped restore some type of routine to our house when we were all feeling a bit adrift from our normal touch-points of school, work, and activities.”

 

The forced stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19 often increased stress at home and a lack of entertainment, with so many options closed.  Pets can provide activities and even stress relief for their owners. “Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure,” according to the National Institute of Health.  

 

With regards to his family’s addition of their now 4 month old puppy, Mochi, David Hanauer said, “This does seem like a good time to work on training with kids at home. It’s also an ideal way to provide them with more interactions since their social interactions with friends are so limited.”

 

While owning a pet can bring many benefits, it should also be considered with some caution. 

 

HealthyChildren.Org describes things to keep in mind when selecting a pet for your family according to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Keep your child’s developmental stage in mind
  • Pick a pet with a temperament conducive to being around children
  • Consider potential allergies or diseases the animals might carry
  • Consider the age of the pet
  • Only buy from a reputable breeder or shelter
  • Take precautions to prevent animal bites 
The Bixler family: Jill, Jon, Clara (13), Rowan (9), & Damian (5) with their “pandemic puppy,” Coco Bear (Coton de Tulear & Poodle mix called a PooTon, now 6 months old). Image courtesy of Jill Bixler.

The Bixler family: Jill, Jon, Clara (13), Rowan (9), & Damian (5) with their “pandemic puppy,” Coco Bear (Coton de Tulear & Poodle mix called a PooTon, now 6 months old). Image courtesy of Jill Bixler.

New dog owner, Jill Bixler said, “If you’re considering getting a puppy I would recommend being realistic about how much time and energy are required to be a responsible pet owner and whether or not your household can sustain that beyond the pandemic. We have started the discussion early about what we’ll do to continue to care for Coco when we are back to a more normal schedule. We also hadn’t considered how many services for pet care weren’t available during the shut down; I have tried my hand at dog grooming with a comical result, fence building (also not a success), and wasted hours scouring every pet website looking for a specific puppy food that was on back-order due to pandemic supply chain issues. We luckily found a wonderful veterinarian who makes house calls and has made us feel very supported during our foray into dog ownership.”

 

As a professional trainer specializing in dog training for families, Cathy Reisfield of Dependable Dogs recommends when choosing a dog to review each dog individually, not necessarily just based on breed or look.  

 

Cathy shared a checklist for successful dog adoption:

1) Decisions and homework – do your research

2) Be willing to wait. Going to the shelter or rescue, does not mean you have to adopt a dog that day. Because a breeder has a litter of puppies now, you don’t need to take a puppy that’s not the right fit.

3) Meet the dog before you adopt. Don’t adopt over the internet. Pick a dog that chooses to be around people and pay attention to how playful and active they are.

4) Your head has to rule your heart. Don’t fall in love with the first cute face you see.  

5) Ask for a behavior assessment if working with a shelter/rescue. These cannot tell you everything, but they can give you more information than you gain by simply looking at the dog. If the dog has been in a foster home, ask for details on his behavior in her home. 

6) Engage a professional. If you are new to dogs, it’s been awhile since you’ve had a dog, or feel as if choosing one for your family is a monumental task, get some help. A dog is a 10 year (or longer) commitment, asking a professional to help you make the right choice increases the likelihood you will find the right canine companion.

 

A great local resource can be found at the  Humane Society of Huron Valley . They provide services like pet adoptions, education, veterinarian services, rescue, private adoptions, and more.  For those unsure of whether you’re ready for a pet, the HSHV has camps, volunteer opportunities, and learning programs specifically for kids to expose them to animals. Visit their website at hshv.org for more information.

 

If you’re one of the many families that adopted a pandemic puppy, Cathy Reisfield, of Dependable Dogs, offered some help to those heading back to work and leaving their new dog at home for longer periods of time.

 

Cathy recommends you, “Set up an area where your dog will be when you leave the house — which is comfortable for the dog. Provide the dog with a chew toy or similar while you remain in the same area. Next, leave the room for short durations while the dog enjoys their chew, etc. Gradually increase the amount of time you are separated. If your dog is stressed, go back to a shorter period of time.  If you have a dog that you know has separation anxiety issues now, this is a great time to work on this issue while we have more flexibility to be at home.” 

 

Looking for positives during the pandemic can be challenging, but to the many that have found joy in growing their families with babies (furry and not), congratulations! 

 

To set up a session (mostly virtual, currently) with Dependable Dogs, email Cathy at:  Trainer@DependableDogs.com.