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As owners return to work, dog trainers become busy

Special to the Legal News

Published: May 19, 2022

During the pandemic, adding a new furry friend to the family may have seemed like an excellent decision.
“I mean, after all, who doesn’t love a tiny puppy,” said local dog trainer Dara Fox.
However, as more people have returned to their workplaces, many of those dogs are exhibiting behavioral issues.
According to Fox, the issue is a big one.
Now that the puppy phase is over, Fox said many are adult dogs with behavior issues, and owners don’t know how deal with the end result.
“Although there was a huge increase in dogs getting homes, that on the surface sounds amazing. Unfortunately, that is not the case,” said Fox.
She sees the same set of behavioral issues from almost every “COVID puppy” she trains.
For several months, due to quarantine, Fox was unable to go to clients’ homes to train. With new puppies being adopted and purchased, many went without training at a crucial time in their growth.
“From the ages of 9 to 16 weeks, our puppy’s brains are like sponges, soaking up every sight, smell, and most importantly, every experience they have,” said Fox.
“During this time, socialization is of the utmost importance, and these puppies missed out due to quarantine.”
With that, the puppy is not properly socialized and often becomes a fearful and anxious dog, resulting in behavior issues such as being destructive, barking at other dogs and exhibiting overall fear of the world around them, she said.
“Separation anxiety is also common in COVID pups, (and) because many of us were home 24/7, the puppy was not crate trained, and now owners are going back to work,” she said.
“These now-adult dogs exhibit separation anxiety, which leads to destructive behavior at home, and in some instances even injure themselves.”
Fox mentioned many dogs were being re-homed now that the pandemic is slowing down. However, research shows no significant increase in pets being returned to shelters or breeders.
According to ASPCA, nearly 1 in 5 households nationwide adopted a pet during the pandemic, and research shows no significant increase in animals being re-homed by their owners now or in the near future as a result of lifting pandemic-related restrictions.
Ohio fell in the middle of the pack with the 28th-highest growth in pet adoptions from 2019 to 2020, according to data from Shelter Animals Count, a centralized database for shelter statistics locally and nationally.
“This incredibly stressful period motivated many people to foster and adopt animals,” said Matt Bershadker, ASPCA president and CEO.
“Pets are still providing their families with joy and comfort, regardless of changes in circumstances, and loving owners continue to recognize and appreciate the essential role pets play in their lives,” he said.
Currently training with The Dog Stop in Franklinton, Fox has a steady influx of clients at the 12,000 square foot facility, which she said has made all-year training easier.
“For many years I traveled to people’s homes to train their dogs, which can be difficult in small spaces or undesirable weather conditions when working outdoors,” said Fox.
This was especially true through the pandemic. Like many small businesses, it brought along many hardships.
Now that the nation seems to be on the back side of COVID, Fox continues to be extremely busy with a wait list.
“The increase of dogs in homes has continued to keep me busy, with no slowdown in sight,” she said, stating she often works six to seven days a week to keep up with demand.
“Fortunately, I am passionate about my job, and find teaching owners how to communicate with their dogs, resulting in happy dogs, with lifelong homes, is beyond rewarding.”
According to The Dog Stop website, Fox’s training techniques involve the use of Gentle Leaders and positive reinforcement.
“I evaluate each dog, and take a behaviorist approach, to better understand why the dog is exhibiting certain behaviors,” said Fox.
Fox is certified to train dogs in multiple areas, including basic and advanced obedience, handicap assistant dogs, search and rescue, scent discrimination and behavior modification.
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