Saskatoon dog trainer sees rise in pandemic pups not being properly socialized

As a professional dog trainer, Meghan Oesch specializes in correcting poor behaviour. But, she says during the pandemic, she’s been receiving a lot of calls about the animals not being properly socialized.

“The biggest problem right now is nobody went anywhere and nobody gave these dogs the opportunity to just see the world,” Oesch said.

Oesch runs Crazy Tails Canine Services in Saskatoon, which offers everything from pet grooming to doggy daycare and training.

As more people head back to work and start taking their dogs out to places, Oesch said training classes for basic obedience are being booked three months in advance.

“They’re starting to notice a little more behaviour problems or a little bit more training problems and so that prompts calls to us to deal with specific things like separation anxiety.”

It’s something dog owners and dog walkers say they have also noticed while out at dog parks.

“You have different dog personalities, you have different people that know different experiences and I think the problem is a lot of people don’t have dog on dog experience,” said Amanda Woelk, a dog walker.

Joel Vermette, who helps with dog walking and dog sitting through, has experience dealing with all types of dogs and says he is very familiar with “pandemic puppies.”

“They’re apprehensive and usually only socialized towards their owner and I find that makes them either protective or apprehensive and fearful, and those are bad combinations in a dog that leads to aggression and spontaneous outbursts.”

Last week, a small Terrier mix was attacked by two large dogs at Sutherland Beach Off-leash Dog Park and died of its injuries.

That incident has prompted calls for owners to ensure their dogs are properly trained and socialized before going to an off-leash park.

“A dog park is not a place to go if your dog doesn’t have the social skills to be able to interact with other dogs regularly and enjoy those interactions,” Oesch said.

Instead, Oesch recommends people first take their dog to a training class or somewhere like a pet store to meet other people and dogs.

“They don’t have to meet every single person, they don’t have to meet every single other dog, but definitely a few good experiences and just getting them out and seeing the world, going for a daily walk outside, visiting a pet store, those kinds of things can make a world of a difference when socializing with a dog.”

The City of Saskatoon requires all dogs attending a dog park to be well-behaved and be able to obey basic commands like “sit” and “stay.”

It also requires owners whose dog becomes a nuisance to other people or animals to restrain the dog and remove it from the off-leash area.

The City said it has received many requests for an off-leash dog park dedicated to small dogs — something its Community Services team is in the process of securing funds for.

It’s a move Oesch supports and says will help prevent injuries and accidents from happening

“Even the most well-intentioned big dog can still cause harm to a small dog even if they don’t intend to, even if there’s no aggression, there’s no behaviour problems whatsoever. It’s just a matter of body size, right? It comes down to the fact that little dogs are more prone to getting hurt, they’re a little more sensitive obviously and things can happen.”