Pandemic pups: Teaching dogs and humans to safely interact

West Virginia Headlines

(WTRF) – It’s probably not too dramatic to say that COVID-19 drastically changed the way we lived our lives. After months of lockdown, some people are back at work and school. We may not be hesitating to leave the house, but there’s a furry friend we may be leaving behind who is feeling the loneliness.  

A litter of Belgian Malinois puppies bred by dog trainer Julia Bober, Black Cobra K9.

While we were all worried about COVID and contracting the illness, and maybe stressed or anxious when we left the house, our dogs were picking up on our emotions.

That anxiousness travels right down the leash to the dog.

Julia Bober, Owner, Black Cobra K9

It could be having a negative impact on your dog’s behavior. 

A report from State Farm found that the company handled 3,185 dog-related injury claims last year. Most of them came in March of 2020 at the start of the lockdown.

It was interesting to see that as adults were staying home and as the kids were staying home from school the anxiety levels were rising and the dogs picked up on that.

Laura Mull, State Farm Agent

 Post-pandemic life will look different for everyone, including our dogs. 

A lot of owners weren’t creating distance from their pets while working at home, and it could cause separation anxiety. 

I had to recommend to a lot of clients that even if you’re home, you should crate your dog or at least put it in another room. That way, so when you do leave, your dog is already used to the separation

Julia Bober, Owner, Black Cobra K9

Owners should also make sure their dog has basic obedience, manners and leash training, which make outings a little easier. 

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We want to focus on education and safety because we would love to have no dog bite claims and we just want everybody to be safe.

Laura Mull, State Farm Agent

The public could also use some training in how to interact with dogs that aren’t theirs. It starts with respecting the dog’s space.

Do not hover, don’t get too close. Don’t get in the dogs face. Typically a lot of dogs don’t like when you reach over top of their head to be petted.

Julia Bober, Owner, Black Cobra K9

Bober explained that while it may be easier to address a dog, we need to ask the owner. Then, wait for the dog to come to you and don’t use a high pitched voice. 

If someone’s out with their dog in public, that doesn’t mean it’s public property. Always interact with the human first.

Julia Bober, Owner, Black Cobra K9

It’s also important when out in public to never interact with or distract a service dog. Bober said that’s their owner’s lifeline and it has a job to do.

West Virginia ranked #40 in terms of the number of dog-related injury claims State Farm handled in 2020. There were 14.

Neighboring states like Ohio and Pennsylvania were much higher on the list at numbers three and four with more than 150 claims each.

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