One thing I noticed after the start of COVID-19/The Lockdown was how many people were using their time at home to get a new family member. I have seen multiple people getting new horses or new puppies since all of this began. While I love when families choose to responsibly add a new pet to the household, I do have some specific concerns for the animals being bought during the pandemic.
As anyone that has ever raised a puppy knows, they require a LOT of work. Frequent trips outside for potty training, crate training, basic obedience, chewing, etc. A new puppy, or even a new adult dog, takes a lot of time to integrate into the family. With more time staying in and fewer activities to do away from home, now might seem like the perfect time to get a new puppy. And it definitely might be. But, there are things to consider before adding your new “Pandemic Puppy”. Before you decide on a new dog, think about life before COVID-19. Did you have time for a dog then? Were you away from home too long every day back then? At some point, we will be back to normal, and it’s important to make sure your dog will still fit your lifestyle when that happens. One of my fears for Pandemic Puppies is that when life returns back to normal they may no longer be wanted.
When things do “go back to normal”, we are all probably going to be out of our houses more than right now. It’s important to acclimate your Pandemic Puppy to be alone for short periods of time during the day even if you aren’t going anywhere. This will help prevent your puppy from having a meltdown when things return to normal. Separation anxiety in dogs can be incredibly difficult to manage, but it can often be prevented with thorough training from the beginning. My worry for Pandemic Puppies is that they may have trouble acclimating to being home alone when their owners go back to working outside the home.
My other fear for Pandemic Puppies is socialization. Puppies require lots of attention from 4 weeks to approximately 16 weeks old to be properly socialized. A lack of socialization during this “critical socialization period” can lead to lifelong behavior problems like aggression and anxiety. With many communities sheltering in place and social distancing, it’s going to be hard to get puppies the life experiences they need during this time. I think some ways to combat this would be to take your puppy on walks as your community guidelines allow and to reward your puppy for being calm around people that you may pass while staying socially distant. Also taking them while you go to drive-through restaurants to curbside pickup may be helpful.
Most of the same concerns listed above also apply to Pandemic Ponies. Before getting a new pet of any species, consider if you have the time and money to care for the animal. Horses can be VERY expensive. Feed, board, farrier work, and routine vet care really add up when you are dealing with an animal that weighs a couple of thousand pounds. Once the pandemic is over, will you have the time to devote to this new horse? Do you have a reliable source of income to provide for this horse? These are relevant questions any time considering getting a new animal, but I think they are even more important now.
Anytime considering getting a new pet, it is important to make sure that animal fits your lifestyle and that you have the means to care for it. However, this is even more important right now with the uptick in families bringing home new pets. I am all about getting new animals, but I just want to make sure it is a well thought out decision and that each home is a truly great fit for each animal.