British Columbia

As return to work looms, dog owners seek solutions for their pooches

As dogs and their owners face a return to "normal" that will likely include a lot more alone time for Fido, dog service providers say they've never been busier.

Dog service providers say they've never been busier as pandemic restrictions ease across Canada

Butters the corgi has spent a lot of time at home with his owners, Jamie Carballo and her spouse, this past year. Carballo changed jobs so she could work from home full time as pandemic restrictions ease. (Jamie Carballo/Instagram)

For the past year, Butters the corgi has been living his best life.

With at least one human home nearly all the time to tend to his needs, Butters has had no shortage of attention. 

Throughout the pandemic, owner Jamie Carballo continued to commute to her job in health care, while her spouse worked from their Burnaby, B.C., home.

But as talk of her spouse returning to the office became more pressing, Carballo decided it was time for a change.

"I think the pandemic has shown us where our priorities really lie," Carballo said. "And with Butters being family, I would rather spend more time with him than my co-workers, to be honest."

Carballo says the realization, coupled with her desire to commute less, led her to switch jobs so she can work from home full time. 

Across Canada, many pets have had the luxury of spending more time with their owners as the pandemic forced some to work remotely during the pandemic. At the same time, in the past year there has been a boom in dog adoptions as people sought furry companionship amid the isolation of various quarantine measures. 

As dogs and their owners face the harsh reality of a return to "normal" that will likely include a lot more alone time for pets, dog service providers say they've never been busier.

Exponential increase in demand

Kari Hanninen offers dog walking services in Richmond and Vancouver through her company, Dogs on the Go!

Twice a day, Hanninen can be found roaming along the Fraser River with a small pack of dogs in the off-leash area at McDonald Beach Park. 

"[Demand] has increased exponentially," Hanninen said. "And I'm referring to even smaller companies or startups that just popped up in the last little bit."

Kari Hanninen says she only has a few spots open for her dog-walking services that she offers in Vancouver and Richmond. (Submitted by Kari Hanninen)

Earlier this week, B.C. allowed provincewide recreational travel, and Hanninen says she saw a corresponding uptick in demand for boarding services, which she offers on weekends.

Rover.com, which also offers walking, pet-sitting and boarding services, similarly says it has noticed a spike in demand as pandemic restrictions ease. The company says it broke records this past May. 

Gradual process

Kim Monteith, manager of behaviour and welfare for the B.C. SPCA, says pet-minding services can go a long way to help dogs adjust to suddenly being alone at home — some of them for the first time. 

Monteith says pet owners considering these services should acclimate their dogs to them gradually before they return to work full time and make sure the service is a good fit for their pet. 

"Give your dog a chance, and you a chance, to meet the dog walker you're hiring," she said. "Find out what type of handling they use. Do they do group walks? Do they do single walks?"

Animal behaviour manager Kim Monteith with the B.C. SPCA says it's best for dog owners to gradually get their pets used to whatever post-pandemic scenario they will encounter. (Submitted by Kim Monteith)

The same applies to services like doggy daycare, Monteith says. Some companies will allow you to bring pets for just short periods of time at first. 

For those who will have to leave their dogs alone for most of the day, Monteith strongly recommends that owners get their fur babies used to being on their own long before that transition happens. 

That could mean just starting by leaving them for a couple of hours to run errands, ideally on the same schedule the owners will have once they return to work, and gradually increasing that time. 

Monteith also recommends dog owners watch for signs of anxiety in their dogs, which could include panting, not eating, or destructive behaviour. If those signs do appear, she suggests working with a veterinarian or professional trainer.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.

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