(ANIMAL NEWS/PETS) While most of us have been stuck in our houses during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no denying the rise in pet adoption rates over the past year.

However, many of these dogs have been deprived of proper training and necessary socialization, and are now being surrendered to shelters. As many people are returning to their pre-pandemic lives, they must be prepared for potential behavioral problems. Read on to learn how families are adapting and instilling new habits in their furry friends. — Global Animal

Mikayla Moore, an spcaLA trainer, and Sara Taylor, spcaLA director of animal behavior and training, work on obedience training with shelter dogs. Taylor suggests that pet owners who will be returning to a life where they’re not as home as much can start by making sure that there’s a safe area, such as a den, for the dog. Photo Credit: spcaLA

Washington Post, Kim Kavin

Social distancing, which kept many people healthy during the pandemic, has been a disaster for some of the dogs they adopted as companions to comfort them during those lonely days at home.

Sweet pandemic puppies, deprived of the socialization and experiences they need to learn good behavior, have grown into unruly teenagers. Owners are calling for help, and obedience classes are filling up across the country. Trainers are worried that overwhelmed owners won’t stick with the necessary classes — and will turn over their dogs to shelters. Some rescue groups say they are already seeing that happening.

Dog adoptions and sales soar during the pandemic

“Social distancing are the worst two words you can add to a puppy’s life,” says Rendy Schuchat, owner of Anything is Pawzible in Chicago. “But that’s where we are. We have to figure out how to move forward.”

Dee Hoult, chief executive of Applause Your Paws Canine Training Center in Miami, says she sees the lack of socialization of pandemic pups all the time. A recent case: A 9-month-old goldendoodle who arrived at training class with his human family in tow. His owner, a mother of three children, got him as a puppy during the wave of dog adoptions and purchases that the pandemic unleashed. But today, he is no longer that cute little fluff ball. He’s a 50-pound adolescent who, having missed out on normal interactions with the world, is “explosively reactive” to every other dog he sees, Hoult says.

“He was not exposed to anything, and so he just can’t cope,” Hoult said. “He’s at the point now where if they try to take him out and walk him, he’s too strong on the leash, and he barks at everything.”

Today, that family is enrolled in training with the intention of keeping the dog — something trainers say many owners are doing instead of abandoning the dogs to shelters. But with people going back to work, camp and school, and other activities, trainers say they are concerned about the next three to six months when pre-pandemic “normal life” begins to rev up.

While big shelters in cities such as New York and Los Angeles are not reporting increases in the number of dogs being surrendered, some smaller nonprofit dog rescue groups in Michigan, Colorado, New York and other states report upticks already.

A typical case, says Wendy Weisberg of Second Hand Dog Rescue in Rochester, N.Y., was that of a young woman with no dog-owning experience who got a terrier mix during the pandemic for companionship. She recently gave him up to the rescue group, saying she just couldn’t keep him; he cost too much and was getting too wild. She’d kept him in her apartment, where he got so little exercise and socialization that he began jumping around and eventually broke his paw, Weisberg says. Now healing from that injury, and getting socialized in a foster home, the dog is up for adoption — again.

“He doesn’t have any idea about other dogs or other people,” Weisberg says.

Schuchat says it’s understandable that many people thought the pandemic was a good time to get a dog. But now they’re blaming the dogs for behavior that the pandemic and our actions during it helped to create.

“People say, ‘You got wild and crazy, and I give up,’ ” Schuchat says. “It’s scary. If you’re not committed to these dogs and they have severe problems, we know where they’re going to end up.”

Behavioral problems are one of the biggest reasons dogs come into shelters, not just in pandemic times, says Maria Wickes, who heads virtual training for Dogs Trust USA, a nonprofit group offering online classes that has partnered with Animal Care Centers of NYC.

Many of those problems, however, can be solved through training — if owners are willing to commit to it.

The problems tend to show up in dog adolescence, which lasts until they’re about 18 months old — sometimes longer depending on the breed — and which is where many pandemic pups are now. This phase has always led families to seek out trainers because dogs go through a secondary fear period as their bodies enter maturity — a natural process that can undo the behavior of even perfectly trained pups, much less those deprived of the normal interactions in their early months.

As more people are vaccinated and begin to return to pre-pandemic lives, getting a dog through adolescence has become even harder. Pet owners, like everyone else, are leaving home more frequently to work, play and travel, and suddenly being around every three to four hours to walk a pandemic pup isn’t quite so easy.

When people do take the dog out for a walk, once-quiet streets and parks are now busier, full of people, cars and other sights and sounds. All of these things — to a dog who has never experienced them — feel strange and scary, and compound the behavioral challenges of canine adolescence, trainers say.

Continue reading the full Washington Post article, here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/pandemic-pets-problems/2021/05/21/5a044996-b353-11eb-a980-a60af976ed44_story.html

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