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Will You Surrender Your COVID Dog?

As so many people are heading back to in-person work and school, there is an alarming trend of people choosing to surrender the dogs they adopted during COVID. What about you? Will you surrender your COVID dog? This is something that many of us in the dog training world have been holding our breath hoping not to see and it’s so sad to see it actually coming to pass. As people return to work and pre-pandemic social activities, they are surrendering the dogs they adopted during COVID to shelters. This is doubly tragic as the demand for dogs during the pandemic led to increased breeding so we are now seeing dogs that were specifically bred to meet the demand for puppies being abandoned by their owners. If I’m honest, this makes me incredibly angry, however, my anger doesn’t really help the situation. What does help is support, training and education. So, I’ll be focusing on more ways to help people struggling with the transition back to work make it easier for your dog. This will include lots of enrichment activities to help your dog thrive at home when you aren’t there along with tips, tools and resources for helping your dog avoid or overcome Separation Anxiety. Check out the four-part series I wrote on helping your dog transition to your return to work at this link. The vast majority of surrendered dogs have not received any formal training. Add to that the development of separation anxiety and reactivity we are seeing in dogs that spent all day every day with their people during the pandemic and we end up with too many shelter dogs who are at the critical age of around a year old who don’t know their basic manners and cry/bark/destroy the house when left alone which hinders their ability to be adopted. The point of this rant is to highlight the problem and to share how I plan to be part of the solution. I’m getting started with the following three activities and will share more over the coming weeks and months. How will I do that? Again, if I’m honest, I haven’t decided all the ways that I will put these solutions into action. Today, I’m sharing with you at least how I’m getting started:

  1. I will soon be offering separation anxiety group & private online training programs to walk you through the steps to help your dog overcome their separation anxiety.

  2. I’m setting up a Facebook group specifically for dog training problems, separation anxiety issues and return to work logistics where you can get free help from me and the community on making this transition work for you and your dog.

  3. I’m launching a public service informational campaign to support people who are considering surrender make a reasoned decision and, for those who decide to keep their dog, take the steps that will make that work. So far I’ve booked one interview and am scheduling several Facebook Lives in conjunction with the group mentioned earlier. I’ll follow up with details on all of that shortly.

Follow me on Facebook to stay up to date on my latest support activities. The outlook for dogs isn’t all doom and gloom of course as many people not only keep their dogs come heck or high water, they arrange their life around their dog. I’m one of those people myself. One of the reasons I wanted to be self-employed was so that I wouldn’t have to be away from Jake (who has separation anxiety) during those all too common 9-5 hours. Julie Naismith, my favorite authority on separation anxiety in dogs and someone whose courses I love (I’m currently enrolled in her certification course for separation anxiety trainers to up-level my skills), polled her audience and found that a full 85% of them said they would consider calling in sick to take care of their dog (I’ve totally done that when I worked for others), and 54% said they even considered changing jobs to accommodate their dog’s needs (I’ve done that, too).

Ruth and Jake

These statistics don’t surprise me at all when you consider the profound impact our dogs have on our lives. For me, the people who are surrendering dogs now that they are going back to work are completely missing the point. It’s not the dog that is inconvenient, it’s the people who haven’t understood what the dog has done for them. Lots of things in life are inconvenient, and sure, dogs can be one of those things sometimes, but dogs are inconvenient in the same way children are or having to count your money or get dressed in the morning is, certainly not in a way that warrants abandonment (oops, ranting again)! Back to the positive…tomorrow is National Mutt Day. Although I work with both purebred dogs and mutts, mixed-breeds are my favorite. I love the excitement of figuring out what breed genetics will drive their behavior and how their looks evolve. Like life, mutts are unpredictable and I love them for that. My Jake is a mutt who is primarily a mix of lab/boxer/Dalmatian with about 15 other breeds (how great is it that we can DNA test our dogs now?). Tomorrow, he will be getting a massage from his personal canine masseuse, Tracee, from Spry Dog Massage, along with a specially cooked meal (I haven’t decided what yet) and lots of “mommy and me” time. Will you be doing anything special for your mutt tomorrow? If you have a purebred dog, feel free to spoil them as well or wait for Spoil Your Dog Day on August 10. Another opportunity to spoil dogs that are feeling a little needy right now is DOGust on August 1 which is the Universal Birthday for Shelter Dogs. If you don’t have a shelter dog at home, maybe you can volunteer to walk or play with some shelter dogs in your area, drop off necessities like towels and food to your local shelter (or drop off a bunch of cool toys for the shelter pups) or donate money if you have more of that than time and the shelter will spend every penny wisely on your behalf. OK! I hope this post has given you some food (or treats) for thought. I’ll update you on times/dates for the interviews & lives I have in the pipeline. If you have questions about returning to work and/or dog behavior let me know in the comments and I’ll include the answers in future newsletters and/or the Lives. Here are some additional dog holidays in August to spark your imagination:

  • August 1: DOGust Universal Birthday for Shelter Dogs

  • August 10: Spoil Your Dog Day

  • August 15: National Check the Chip Day

  • August 17: International Non-Profit Day

  • August 21: International Homeless Animals’ Day

  • August 23: International Blind Dog Day

  • August 26: National Dog Day

  • Aug. 28: Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day

  • August 30: National Holistic Pet Day


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