Perhaps all the time spent at home with dogs isn’t as beneficial as we initially thought. Top Gun Dog Training Academy is reporting a rise in cases of aggression, fear and anxiety across dogs of all ages due to the nationwide stay-at-home orders brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This information isn’t too surprising, as it’s already known that animals have been more on edge during this time as they take on the stress and anxieties of their owners. However, this is a dangerous trend, given that children make up the biggest demographic affected by behavioral changes in dogs. In fact, a pediatric emergency department in Colorado reported nearly three times as many dog bites injuries compared to last year, with the biggest difference being lifestyle changes (virtual learning, working from home, etc.).
"I’ve seen an increase in adult dogs that are suddenly developing serious behavior issues related to stress and anxiety, possibly coming from the owners who are working from home," says Dale Buchanan, dog trainer and owner of Top Gun Dog Training. "A lot of these dogs are over stimulated and under exercised. Neither is a good combination for preventing aggression."
As such, now’s the time for pet retailers to think about expanding into offering training services—an area of pet care that’s forecast to reach $41 million by 2025. The two main options are group-learning classes and one-on-one lessons, a setting that’s becoming more common due to pandemic-related restrictions. There's evidence to support the effectiveness of both: GoodPup, a virtual dog training service, alleges that in-person classes include too much stimuli and distractions to actually be effective, while Dr. Nadja Affenzeller claims dogs retain more training knowledge when they engage in play post-training.
Ultimately, it’s up to retailers to decide which method would most appropriately fit their store, its needs/capabilities and their state’s social distancing requirements.