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'Pandemic puppies' need training, but trainers still aren't allowed to work
MONTREAL -- Several Montreal families have taken their newfound free time amid the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to make their families a little bigger by adopting a pet dog.
Puppies aren’t always easy, and many families are looking to get theirs professionally trained – but the Quebec government still hasn't given trainers the green light to resume their services as usual.
“I feel anxious about it,” said Ally Stern, a part-time dog trainer. “Most people are having trouble walking their dogs, that's usually the most difficult thing for people, one of my favourite things to teach and I find it's easier for people to learn this in person.”
Stern said her phone has been ringing incessantly. Like other trainers, she has been offering distanced learning – but she says it’s not for everyone or every behaviour.
“Others really need somebody to be there and help them through this because puppy training is a lot of work,” she said.
Just this week, dog groomers across Quebec were allowed to get back to work, but dog trainers still don’t know when they’ll be able to do the same.
With the pandemic came a puppy boom, and even in a time of isolation, dogs need to be socialized from an early age.
“It's the most important period in their development, and that starts to close around 16 weeks so it's crunch time for a lot of these new puppy owners,” said Samantha Mountain, from Monkey Business dog training.
Trainers say that once life slowly returns to normal and pet owners have to return to their usual schedules, puppies may begin experiencing separation anxiety and a host of behavioural problems.
“Hopefully they don't end up being surrendered to the rescues and the pounds in Montreal,” Mountain said.
The Montreal SPCA said it encourages people who adopt dogs from them to sign up for training courses.
“Puppy socialization and canine education are very important elements that prevent animal abandonment in shelters, improve animals’ quality of life and reduce bite risks," said Amélie Martel, Animal Welfare Director at the Montreal SPCA.
Stern said in-person training is possible if it takes place outside and in small, distanced groups – it’s easy to stay two metres apart from one another.
“I don't want this to become a public safety issue,” Stern said. “I want the next generation, the pandemic puppies, to grow up and be ready to live in our world.”
The health ministry said dog training hasn’t been forgotten, and a date should be set soon.