Don’t lose sight of the consequences of constant attention and lack of proper training

By Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay

Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay

When the pandemic hit and so many Morgan Hill people started “Zooming” from home, puppy adoptions soared. It became the perfect opportunity to adopt and actually have the time to spend with their new puppy, something that seems to be a rarity in the bustling life of Silicon Valley.  But it has not come without challenges.

Puppies raised in the COVID-19 environment are fortunate to often be surrounded by their entire family, 24-7. They are receiving more play time, at home training time and far more interaction than in normal times. New pet owners feel like they can constantly watch the puppy.  As a result, more people have opted out of crate training. To many, the crate is a potty training aid and a puppy babysitter. But it is intended to be so much more. The crate should be a safe place. Even when you are home, there are times when you cannot focus your attention on The Cutest Puppy Of The Day - 17 pics - | Cute puppy pictures, Cute puppies, Cute animalswhat that puppy is doing. Just making dinner can give that puppy the opportunity to ingest something dangerous. The crate is integral in providing a physically safe place.  It is also a mentally safe place. The crate should be a place of security, for sleeping and escaping whenever the environment is too stimulating. A crate-trained dog is also much less likely to have issues going into a crate for travel, in the event of evacuation or during veterinary visits. The crate should not be a place of punishment but a very positive place.

Being home all day with a puppy definitely has its perks. The puppy can develop a deeper confidence in their owner, leading to a more robust bond between them. However, this also has pitfalls. A puppy (or any dog for that matter) who is with their owner 24-7 is at risk for developing separation anxiety. The substantial rise in separation anxiety throughout the nation has been attributed to the pandemic. Being home, the natural desire is to be with your pet, especially a puppy. But it is absolutely critical to make sure your puppy/dog spends time alone. The crate can make this much easier. If a dog is never alone, they never develop the confidence to be alone. This is not a skill that just comes naturally. In fact, the ability to be comfortable alone is a skill that is much more easily lost than gained if not practiced. The rise in separation anxiety throughout the country has led to severe behavioral issues and the increasing use of anxiety medications such as Prozac. Leaving your puppy alone is not cruel, but rather essential and it takes a conscious effort to accomplish.

Socializing in the era of social distancing . . . yet another challenge. While we are keeping our distance, socializing puppies to other people and dogs is absolutely crucial to proper development.  Without this, dogs often develop social anxiety or aggression when placed in a situation around other people or dogs. Use your social bubble to socialize your puppy. Socialize your puppy around dogs in your bubble who are healthy and vaccinated. Avoid dog parks and other public venues as there is still a lot that we do not know about COVID-19 and its potential implications on animals.

Training has provided obstacles to some.  Professional training is still available but may look different. Many people are turning to private at home training. This can be a good alternative to traditional puppy classes. The trainer can also see your home and make suggestions about your set-up.  But remember that a very important part of puppy training is testing training skills outside of the home in an environment that is overstimulating, which is what puppy class traditionally provides. Whether you choose puppy class or an alternative method, make sure to provide this stimulating environment.

COVID-19 puppies are so lucky to have their families home all the time. But do not lose sight of the serious consequences of constant attention and lack of proper training. Take advantage of the global pandemic shelter in place and give your puppy all the love and attention in the world while also teaching them to have the confidence to be alone in these crazy times.

Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay