Your pandemic dog is no longer a puppy — here's how to keep them happy and out of trouble

·3 min read
Doggieville owner Tatiana Custode is seen with her late dog Ruby. (Submitted by Tatiana Custode - image credit)
Doggieville owner Tatiana Custode is seen with her late dog Ruby. (Submitted by Tatiana Custode - image credit)

At the Doggieville hotel in southwestern Montreal, owner Tatiana Custode has seen a lot of dogs come through her doors in the last two years, taking advantage of her indoor park and swimming pool, while their owners travel away from home.

She says it's been a time when "everybody realized that we need a best friend."

Many households decided to adopt a pet during the pandemic, with puppies in especially high demand. But now those puppies are growing up, and spending less time with their owners.

This can be an adjustment for both the dog and owners like Emanuelle Cere.

Cere had wanted to get a pup ever since she moved to Montreal, away from her family's dogs. So she got Taho, who is now 10 months old.

"The pandemic gave me the opportunity to spend the time with him as a baby," she said while the two were at a dog park in Griffintown.

And while Taho is a beloved part of Cere's home, there can be some growing pains, too.

Cere laughs as she remembered the time when "he destroyed the couch."

Aimee Louw/CBC
Aimee Louw/CBC

A study published by the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science found that dogs are most commonly given up between the ages of seven months and three years, when they're no longer fluffy puppies, but can still be a lot of work to care for.

Many dogs adopted during the pandemic haven't spent much time alone, which can lead to anxiety when the owner does leave the house. Montreal-based dog trainer Gaby Popper suggests thinking of the dog not as a problem, but instead as them "needing to re-adapt."

Here are some tips from experts on how to keep your pandemic pup happy — and out of trouble.

Make a cozy den

The SPCA recommends getting your dog comfortable in the space they'll spend their time while their owner is away. The organization suggests giving them treats and putting their favourite toy and blanket in that spot, so that when you leave they have a more positive association with it.

Practise being alone

Start with a short trip while your dog is in its den, first for 10 minutes, and then gradually increasing time away. Stephanie Zouzout, a co-ordinator at the SPCA West in Vaudreuil, Que., says that some people "didn't necessarily take the time to work the dog, train the dog and give it the education that it needed."

She says it's important to put the time in, even if you are continuing to work from home.

Go back to basics

It might seem like your dog is regressing — having accidents in the apartment or being more fearful. In their book Training the Best Dog Ever, authors Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz and Larry Kay call this the "fear period" and note that it's perfectly normal.

They recommend retraining and practising basic commands like sit and stay, and rewarding them for good behaviour. They write that this will build up the dog's confidence, and their other knowledge will return.

SPCA Montreal spokesperson Anita Kapuscinska recommends getting your dog spayed or neutered as soon as possible, which can reduce both the risk of some health issues and the marking of territory by males. Doing so is also required by municipal bylaw in Montreal.

Find a pack

The SPCA says dogs also need to be around other dogs, to help with their development and to keep them happy.

If you give them safety, play time, food and direction, Zouzout says that may address some of the behavioural issues that can come up for a pandemic dog.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting