Life With Dogs In The Age of The Coronavirus

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 Life as most of us know it is being severely disrupted by the restrictions and common-sense guidelines being put forth in nearly every community in order to slow the spread of covid-19. Are there any “winners” in this strange new world? Many of our dogs, it turns out, are benefitting from having their owners working from home or caring for kids whose schools and daycare centers have closed. I know of many dogs who are getting more walks and much more family time than ever.

On the other hand, many people whose livelihoods are dependent on dog-related businesses are definitely worried. I am seeing a lot of angst in the social-media feeds of dog trainers, walkers, groomers, daycare, and boarding facilities. Many dog owners are canceling services and appointments, either because their travel has been suspended or because they are self-quarantining, or just to protect themselves from possibly being exposed to the virus in public places.

(I know that there are MANY people whose livelihoods are taking a big hit right now; I’m speaking only about dog-related businesses because that’s in my wheelhouse!)

What you can do to help

I know of many small and micro dog-related business owners and employees who are suffering major hardships at this time. I’d like to promote a suggestion I’ve seen elsewhere: If your income or job is stable and your income is NOT taking a hit due to the various virus-containment strategies in place, consider sending a check to the dog walker, groomer, or trainer you would have ordinarily seen during this time. Consider it a holiday bonus!

The only dog-related businesses that I’m aware of that are doing well at the moment? I know that companies who sell food and other supplies online are getting buried in orders; many are announcing that there will be delays from their usual prompt delivery times. Also: Trainers who teach using video or live-streaming. Many trainers are switching to that format to keep their income (and their clients’ education) on track. If you are stuck at home and bored, and your dog could use some training, consider asking your trainer if she’s set up for a video consultation. Or book a training appointment with a professional on the other side of the country! This is a perfect time to get access to people who ordinarily would be too busy to book online appointments with out-of-the-area clients.

At last word, health officials still approve of people getting outdoor exercise, as long as they maintain a distance of six feet away from other humans who are not members of their household. You know what else is six feet long? The best leash for walking your dog! If you are stressed by the news, we’d like to recommend a long walk with your dog outdoors (as long as you are feeling well).

Hang in there, wash your hands, order your dog’s food earlier than usual, and take care!

22 COMMENTS

  1. I have recently shifted to being a work from home IT professional. My dogs are enjoying the extra time but like any situation there are always consequences to any change. As much as I am enjoying the extra time with both of my furry companions I am also looking forward to things getting back to as normal as this world ever gets.

  2. What about the 6 ft. distance rule with dogs while on a walk? Everyone wants to pet our dog. I suspect we should respect “distancing” with other people’s pets. We are diligent about washing hands when we get home from grocery store. We wash hands BEFORE petting our dog! Please advise us on this. THANK YOU !

  3. I’d like to share good pet training videos with our customers who are stuck at home with their dogs, and pair it with phone or Skype consults with local trainers. This would be fun and useful for pets, for kids out of school, and for adults in the household looking for an interesting new activity. If anyone has any suggested links to such videos (fear-free only, of course) that I can pass along, please share! We might as well make the most of this unsought opportunity.

    • Check out tricks and training videos on YouTube from kikopup. Excellent positive reinforcement training with clear instruction. Have fun!

  4. I’m a dog trainer in NJ – I teach K9 Nose Work classes which are now canceled so no income there and I teach in-home lessons as a contractor through NJ DDD (I work with persons with disabilities teaching them to train their home companion dogs and service dogs) – this involves a lot of hands-on with the dogs and the people and is not conducive to FaceTime or that type of remote video training – and my clients are high risk and since I’m paid by DDD and not them, they are not in a situation to send me any “tips” of get me through so basically I’m now in a really bad situation.

    I did invent a novelty dog toy that if I could figure out how to get it produced might sell well and bring in some income but I’m stuck at finding a possibly interested company, signing a NDA and presenting my prototype. I’m totally out of my expertise here. Anyone have any know how with this?

  5. So good of you to recognize those of us who are self-employed pet care providers! I have seen nothing like this since the attack on the twin towers, when everything was cancelled and no business came in until the following May. I still have some dog walks and house checks will continue until people come back from Florida for the summer. Having been a social worker, I have gone into “help mode” for people asking what they can do. Of course, I suggest they first take care of their own, writing out care instructions for their pets (in case I can’t get there) and ultimate instructions for re-homing in case of the worst. Many of my clients are elderly and that is their biggest concern.
    It’s heartening that there is an up side, with people at home more, giving out more belly rubs and going for longer walks.

    • My dog has a BFF right down the street. We used to have almost daily play dates either in my back yard or hers. Unfortunately, her owner has COPD and there’s no way I’m going to visit her, with or without my dog. It’s sad for all of us, but it is what it is. I’m completely self-isolated and more than likely fine, but if I passed anything on to her, I’d never forgive myself.

  6. Thank you! I have a staff of groomers that will be hurting even with unemployment benefits. Even more owner/operators that will struggle to catch up. Thank you for supporting the service providers everywhere!
    I was a bit on the fence about if our Spa was a social distancing challenge or not as most of our interaction is with the pets. However I counted up and in one day, we had 72 interactions with clients. There’s bound to be mistakes in distancing protocol. Closing was the right thing to do for our employees and our loyal clients.

  7. WDJ is one of my most trusted sources of information to help keep my 12 year old rescued/recycled terriers safe and healthy, thank you Nancy for that. They are second generation recipients of the publication’s advice .
    I am considered high risk because of age. My current symptoms, including temperature below 96f. for the last 5 days disqualify me for formal testing despite a wracking cough, constant wheezing, joint pain, and visual disturbance.
    Our rescues came to us in 2014, and from the start one of them is traumatized when I cough. If he isn’t close and hears coughing he runs to me shaking all over. If he is next to me and I start, he runs into another room and waits until I stop to return. I have felt that the person who turned him in to a shelter probably had COPD or lung cancer and that he associates the sound with losing his human parent.
    These two Jack Russells are the fourth pair who have owned us since 1974 and we have been lucky to live near a wonderful veterinary practice, an excellent emergency care center, a top vet school, and all kinds of trails safe for elderly walkers over 80. Thank you again for being an important part of our training and caring team !

  8. For those unable to get out and walk their dogs, you can play interactive games with your dog in the house. Hiding bits of food for them to seek out, putting some under cups and shuffling them around, etc. You can also feed them their meals in this way. We use interactive puzzles on a routine basis to keep our 17 year old with cognitive dysfunction stimulated and our rat terrier busy and out of trouble. You can google interactive games to play with your pet or search out interactive toys or puzzles. This is a trying time for us all, but we can make it more positive by spending some quality time with our pets. Just make sure to adjust their meals so you aren’t over feeding. We measure out a meal take out some kibbles to use during game and training time. Stay positive ~ Stay healthy everyone

  9. My local dog place which supplies dog food, treats & stuff will take phone orders and deliver curbside! But out of caution and caring they have closed their grooming, self bathing, training, etc. side. Sigh. My dog is learning ‘dressage’ or that seems to be what she is doing as she goes out to enjoy the brief spell of sunshine we are having. SO, I’m going to put the behavior on command. Hahaha. Training goes on around here daily. Less boredom for all.

  10. Is anyone out there aware of whether dogs fur transmit coronavirus? We still walk her, and people still want to pet her, but we refuse. This feels terrible, because we want people to love on our dog, but if petting a dog transmit the virus, well, it’s obviously out. Any insights as to the science of this?

    • Mitchell: Yes, if someone who is infected pets your dog, they can leave infective material on your dog’s coat. Do NOT allow people to pet your dog at this time! The only way we’d allow someone to pet our dog on the street is if they thoroughly wiped their hands with some of those Clorox wipes and then waited at least three minutes while the antiviral activity of the wipe could work its magic and then…. you know what? Nope. What if they coughed or sneezed while you were waiting? We would NOT allow a stranger to pet our dog at this time. Smile, keep moving, and say no!

      • Nancy: The answer is likely NO. Dr. Jean Dodds published an article addressing this very point this morning. This is the link – https://www.hemopet.org/covid-19-updates-testing-companion-pets-pet-fur-march-23-2020/

        And here is a relevant snippet – “Pet fur and hair will probably be one of the last surfaces that will be tested to see how long SARS-COV-2 will live on it, now believed to be short-lived. As of now, there is no evidence that companion pets can spread the virus to humans.

        The AVMA’s statement was updated on March 15, 2020. The association gave its assessment of pet fur as a possible contact source. We concur with this analysis.

        AVMA Statement:

        Smooth (non-porous) surfaces (e.g., countertops, doorknobs) transmit viruses better than porous materials (e.g., paper money, pet fur) because porous, especially fibrous, materials absorb and trap the pathogen (virus), making it harder to contract through simple touch.

        Nonetheless, organizations do advise you wash your hands before and after handling your companion pet.”

        • Respectfully, until this is tested, I wouldn’t let a stranger with an unknown health history pet my dog, *potentially* putting me or my family members at risk. But I didn’t let many strangers I meet in public pet my dogs anyway…

          One of the things that many trainers teach their clients in “puppy kindergarten” classes is how to ward off strangers from fondling their puppies in public; this may be to protect shy puppies from being frightened, to protect puppies whose immunization may not be complete from potential infection with a contagious disease, or to prevent the puppy’s training from being undermined by an enthusiastic stranger (“I don’t mind if he jumps on me! I LOVE puppies!”). Personally, I think this virus is a perfect excuse to politely tell people to keep their hands off dogs without permission!

          • “I wouldn’t let a stranger with an unknown health history pet my dog.” If you’re concerned about someone potentially carrying the virus, whether you know them or their health history isn’t material. Unless you know the level of precaution someone’s been taking for at least two weeks, you can’t assume they don’t have the virus. Just clarifying the relevant variables…

          • As a trainer and a dog owner, I agree with everything you said about strangers trying to pet dogs without permission. It’s just bad manners and can have detrimental effects on the training process. I was just pointing out the current thinking by the scientific community.

  11. I always pay my dog walker if I have to cancel. I pay her on my snow days , my holidays, my sick days. The way I see it, I depend on her every day, and she needs to depend on me. It is likely we’ll be closed for the rest of the school year. I will pay her for all the days she committed to me.

    For people who are also doing this, consider paying up front for the month ahead. One larger check may be more helpful for meeting a mortgage than waiting weekly for a smaller one. When this is over, we will need these folks again. With no income, many won’t be able to wait it out and resume business as usual.

  12. Our dog walker is like a part of our family. We love her and we have still been paying her through this pandemic because this is one of her only sources of income. We appreciate her and love her even though she can’t be with us right now.

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