COVID-19: 3 Tips for Dog Trainers on Adapting to the ‘New Normal’

Jul 16, 2020 | Consulting, Education, Pet Guardians, Training

By Susan Nilson

COVID-19 coronavirus dog trainer

As dog trainers, animal behavior consultants and pet care professionals continue to adapt to the challenges of conducting business during the pandemic, there are a number of issues to consider to ensure they keep themselves and their clients safe © Can Stock Photo/famveldman

Last month, the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) hosted a webinar with Anna York, BSc (Hon) PhD, Stephanie Perniciaro PhD MPH, Anne Wyllie PhD, Maikel Boot PhD, Chantal Vogels PhD MSc BSc, and Kayoko Shioda DVM MPH of the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut and Dr. Hannah Capon of Canine Arthritis Management in the U.K. to examine how, in this time of pandemic, dog trainers, animal behavior consultants and pet care professionals can engage in best practice to keep themselves and their clients safe as they look to start re-opening and operating their businesses.

COVID-19 Discussion Overview
The discussion included a basic molecular understanding of the coronavirus, the testing, symptoms and risk factors for humans, how it is transmitted between humans, the roles animals such as cats and dogs may play in transmission between humans, and how all of us can modify our behaviors to minimize the spread and keep everyone (especially vulnerable people) as safe as possible.

While we only have room for just a few of the highlights here, you can listen to a recording of the complete webinar plus Q&A session and also gain access to Dr. York’s presentation, by registering here.

Tip #1: In-Person Dog Training Classes
Q: I usually only do private sessions, no group classes. Right now I am only doing live online training but since we are now allowed to offer dog training, most people want the in-person training. To restart this safely, is it best to only have one person bring the dog to training, rather than the whole family?

A: Ideally, in all areas of life, where you must make contact with other people, it is recommended to reduce the number of contacts you are having. So yes, in both these cases, only one family member should bring the dog to training.

Ideally the same person would bring the dog each week, and they can pass on what they learn to other members of the household, however if it is important to the process, other members of that same household could rotate bringing the dog to different sessions. However, definitely only having one member of the household at any session is definitely best. It not only makes social distancing easier but reduces your exposure.

Tip #2: Dog Training Equipment
Q: I have begun seeing dog training clients outside. We pull up our masks if we have to approach one another, but for the most part work at 12 feet or so without. Also, I will wear gloves if I’m handling the client’s leash and remove and discard them at the end of our session. How risky is this training arrangement?

A: Working outside is always preferable to inside due to ability to social distance and also increased/better airflow, which will move potential virus containing aerosols away (also fewer commonly touched surfaces for virus to land on). Whilst outdoors, do still consider communal surfaces you may be touching (park bench, dog bin etc.) and keep your hands away from your face, always wash hands after any outing. The greater the distance the better but keep the minimum recommended (6ft/2m) and wear masks throughout (if you have to remove masks do this using the correct method with good hand hygiene).

Wearing gloves doesn’t automatically protect you, think carefully about what you are touching (whether your hands are gloved or not) and consider using the ‘one-hand potentially contaminated, other hand clean’ rule when deciding what to touch. Outdoors is relatively safe but consider any communal surfaces you may be touching (park bench, dog bin etc.) and keep your hands away from your face, wash hands after your park visit.

Tip #3: Human-to-Dog Transmission
Q: Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines recommend social distancing for dogs. The CDC recommended that pet parents not allow their dogs to interact with people outside of their family. What does this mean for us as an industry? Are we to assume that an asymptomatic person can infect a dog with COVID-19?

A: For now it is probably best for humans to avoid interaction with dogs from other households where possible, dogs mixing with each other probably poses less of a risk. We do not know much about dog-dog transmission of COVID-19 but we do know that humans can infect dogs, so if you are infected you may be able to transmit to a dog you are interacting with, there has been no reports of COVID-19 infected dogs transmitting to humans.

However, the other consideration is dogs as a transmission ‘surface’, virus may be able to live on the dogs skin/fur so if an infected person pets a dog, putting virus on its coat, when another person pets the dog, they may get viral particles on their hands and become infected if they do not refrain from touching their face or practice good hand hygiene. Whilst we don’t know much about this risk, at present minimizing risk where possible is the best approach, so if you do not have to interact with another household’s pets, this would be preferable; when you do, practice good hand hygiene.

For more tips, including whether cats and dogs can act as fomites for the coronavirus, the safety of difficult-to-wash items such as snuffle mats in puppy training classes, hand hygiene and masks, and the recommended precautions to take if you or your clients are considered high-risk for contracting COVID, simply register here to gain access to the recording of the complete webinar, the Q&A session, and Dr. York’s presentation. It’s free for PPG members and just US$20 for everyone else.

Stay safe everyone!

For more dogs and COVID-related content, see also:
Lockdown to Normality…What Does It Mean for Dogs? by Anna Bradley
Lessons from the COVID-19 Crisis by Veronica Boutelle
Surviving the Storm by Gail Radtke

About the Author
Susan Nilson BA (Hons) DipCABT PCBC-A is editor of BARKS from the Guild and a Reuters-trained journalist with over 15 years’ experience in print and digital journalism in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. She also studied feline behavior at the Centre of Applied Pet Ethology (COAPE) in the United Kingdom in 2003 and completed her diploma in companion animal behavior and training with COAPE in 2005. She is also an accredited professional canine behavior consultant through the Pet Professional Accreditation Board. In 2019, she co-authored Pet Training and Behavior Consulting: A Model for Raising the Bar to Protect Professionals, Pets and Their People.