“COVID dogs”, a scourge for many owners


Dog adoptions have increased considerably in Quebec during the pandemic, but also the behavioral problems of these companions, nicknamed “COVID dogs”, which are now a source of concern.

• Read also: A deconfinement squad to learn to live with the virus

Telecommuting has prompted many people to adopt a dog. The dream. What could be better than being at home with your pet that brings so much comfort! However, disenchantment quickly showed up with the return to the office that had been initiated before the appearance of the Omicron variant.

“If we do nothing in telework, the dog develops an attachment 24 out of 7. This is his normality. If we disappear, it’s abnormal. This can create a feeling of panic. Destruction, elimination, vocalization are the three main symptoms,” explains canine educator Jean Lessard, co-founder and president of the Quebec Association of Canine Education Stakeholders (RQIEC).

Mr. Lessard points out that he did not have any requests from new dog owners on the preventive plan during the first wave. “They wait to see if their animal will have any problems before consulting a dog trainer. It’s a bit like with our medicine, we wait to be sick before going to see the doctor, ”he adds.

Teach your dog to be alone

For her part, Mylène Quervel-Chaumette, doctor in cognitive and behavioral sciences and consultant in ethology applied to animal mediation, recalls that dogs are living beings endowed with sensitivity. “They learn throughout their lives,” she says. From one day to the next, their routine is changed. There are individuals who will be more sensitive to this change than others. You really have to prepare them and not be glued to your dog 24 hours a day.

Jean Lessard encourages owners to “leave their dog gradually alone”, which was not necessarily the case last fall. Same observation for Michèle Levert, speaker in canine education and canine behavior at Mimi-Griotte. “Dogs like the predictable. They are thus better able to manage their stress. Get into a routine with your dog, but not a schedule routine, a contextual routine that you do at home.”

According to experts, all owners can implement simple actions. “Get your dog used to not coming to your office,” says Michèle Levert. If you let him in all the time and allow him to play with you at every request, you’re done! Teach him to be alone and to take care of himself. Ms. Levert adds that you have to go “in stages” and “tire your dog with masticatory and intellectual activities”.

In order to improve their well-being, Ms Quervel-Chaumette also advises owners to ignore their animal a little more so that it becomes independent, since “the dog quickly gets used to having a presence”. In case of serious unusual behaviors, she recommends seeking professional help.

The director of the canine component at Les Chiens Togo, Providence Godon, has also observed the phenomenon of “COVID dogs”.

During socialization, “the dog will build its brain and there are emotions that will be associated in certain contexts,” she explained in an interview with LCN on Sunday.

The most important period for dog socialization, according to Ms. Godon, is before 16 weeks.

“It’s a time when it’s important to make positive associations, so what that means is using play, using treats with the puppy, being well versed in canine language so you can work on your pace,” she said.

It is important to develop, through socialization, the dog’s ability to adapt so that it is balanced.

But, “as this side is more difficult due to the isolation, it is a portion that means that there may be a lack,” said Ms. Godon.

With the collaboration of TVA Nouvelles

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