The pandemic pet boom

COVID-19 sees increase in bringing pets home

COVID-19 has brought trials and tribulations upon many. 21-year-old Tracy Dumael found herself facing personal challenges during the pandemic and decided that she needed a big change.

The pandemic has forced families and individuals to stay home, with limited opportunities to go to work, school or travel. For some people, it has become the perfect opportunity to integrate a pet into their lives.

In May 2021, the Dumael’s welcomed a new member into their family: Riley, a rottweiler mix. 

“I’ve always wanted a dog,” she says. “Instead of spending another birthday alone during lockdown, I thought it would be the perfect time to ask my family for a puppy—to have someone new join us.”

According to a survey by Abascus Data, approximately three per cent of Canadian adults who had never owned a pet before brought one home over the course of the pandemic. The same survey revealed that 56 per cent of Canadian adults and families have at least one pet, with dogs and cats being the most popular.

Puppy training is typically the hardest step in raising a dog. But given the abundance of time being spent at home, Dumael has found training Riley to be surprisingly easy.

“Riley is such a smart puppy and she learned commands immediately,” Dumael says.

However, the six-month-old puppy still tends to bite due to teething, which Dumael has found to be one of the most difficult aspects of training.

Another issue Dumal has been working to tackle is Riley’s separation anxiety. While this was one of the largest obstacles to navigate, Dumael noticed a positive change once she began working full-time over the summer.

“For the first few months, it was so hard to be away from Riley,” she says. “But she and I have gotten so much better with overcoming it. We can spend nights apart, and when we reunite it’s the best reunion ever every time—smothered with kisses and non-stop belly-rubbing!”

Separation anxiety in pets, particularly dogs, can be inevitable. The circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase of this problem, especially with the emergence of puppies being brought home by newer, less experienced pet owners.

“Your new puppy has spent the entirety of their short lifetime with you. Now you’re being asked to come back to the office, even if only part-time,” writes experts for the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic. “This is going to create a large cohort of ‘pandemic’ puppies that have never experienced separation from their pet parent.”

This issue, along with the amount of time and effort that must be put into raising a pet, is one that Dumael says all aspiring dog owners should consider.

“Please understand that having a dog isn’t for everyone,” she says. “If you can’t give the proper time and care for your dog, please give them to a more well-deserved home and environment. Dogs are like having children; you never really understand what your dog’s needs are until you are constantly with them.”

But there are benefits to being an owner of a pet, including learning the importance of responsibility, discipline and patience.

“I have definitely learned to be more assertive and patient,” Dumael says. “Before, I would just allow things to happen with anybody, but after having Riley I’ve definitely grown some more courage to put my foot down when needed.”

About the author

Alyssa Bravo is a reporter for Youth Mind. She is a coffee fiend and likes music, movies and food. She wishes to travel to Italy and Greece, and hopes she’ll live to see the day the Toronto Maple Leafs win their 14th championship. When she’s not writing, you can probably find her watching videos of dogs or baby pandas.

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