These are unprecedented times that we are living in. With social distancing guidelines and stay at home orders in place, all non-essential businesses have been ordered to cease operations until the order is lifted. This has had a significant impact on people who are in the Pet Care industry, and those with dog businesses. The reduction in people working and clients even requesting services has created hardships for those who earn their living in this arena. A few veterinarians have recently shared some of their own insights on the situation that those in the business might find helpful.
Responding to a changing world
Prior to the recent chain of events caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, pet owners were enjoying time at pet parks for playdates, dog training classes, daily walks with friends and more. Everyone with dogs or who work with dogs in some capacity has been affected by the new rules of social distancing. Many services we’ve enjoyed are not available in the same form. It’s working a hardship on pet owners, but even more so on those who earn their livelihood in the pet care industry. Dog groomers are staying at home along with closures of dog training centers, dog walkers are out of work and the list goes on. With layoffs and reductions in services, small businesses are facing emotional and economic challenges and some are wondering how they will recoup the losses to hire back staff that they had to lay off when things return to normal. The advice given by veterinarian Dr. Gagnon addresses many of the questions that those in the dog business are grappling with today.
The absence of dog walkers
With a reduction in force for dog walkers, many owners who are now home face the challenge of working from home and ensuring that pets get their daily exercise. Gagnon suggests setting a schedule for morning exercise by taking dogs for a walk while practicing social distancing. Taking a long walk can be good for the owner and dogs. Periodic breaks in the day to play a game and offer treats can help keep pets mentally stimulated. Early morning walks will limit the amount of attention the pet demands throughout the day as they are resting from the adventure.Dr. Karen Cantor of Westside Veterinary Center remarked that they get a lot of questions about pets transmitting Coronavirus to humans. She explained that there is no evidence of dogs catching the virus from humans or vice versa but if a human with the virus coughs or sneezes on the dog, the virus can be spread if others touch its fur. This further supports the necessity of keeping pets close when walking in public. Since little is known for certain about the virus persons who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate themselves from humans and pets for the health and safety of all.
Dogwalkers in the Big Apple
One of the hardest-hit areas in the United States is New York City. Professional dog walkers in the area have taken a massive hit to their livelihoods. Simply walking dogs for their clients increase their chance of exposure to the virus. Many small to medium-sized companies have laid-off workers and some have ceased operation, but there are a few brave souls who carry on. The current estimates suggest a reduction in dog walkers of up o 70% in some areas and up to 90% in others. The biggest loss of business hit within a two day period. Some loyal clients continue to trust their pets to their dog walking services though. Those who continue to work do a lot more hand washing. In addition, the leashes are disinfected with sprays and most wear gloves to protect clients. They’re taking all the right precautions as well as practicing social distancing when out and about with the dogs. Some also note that they avoid touching elevator buttons or any other surfaces which could spread the virus. There is also a big reduction in petting furry clients. These are the measures that are currently being implemented by the dog walkers who are still active in providing these services.
Dog training classes
There has also been a big impact on businesses that provide dog training classes. This is considered to be a non-essential business so many trainers are taking to the internet. The majority of trainers have taken their business to an online platform, offering virtual sessions so they can work with the dogs and the owners in a video chat format. This is a practice that has been ongoing for a few years now, and it appears to be the latest trend for dog owners in need of assistance. This shows that those in certain segments of the dog care industry are resilient and are adapting to the changing landscape around us. There are several trainers offering these services and in addition to that, those interested in obtaining a certificate or licensing as a dog trainer can take the master courses to prepare online.
There is no way around the fact that those working in the pet care industry are taking a big hit these days, but all is not lost. There are plenty of ways that professionals in the pet care industry can alter their practices to safely provide the services for pet owners. There is little that can be done to increase business until stay at home orders are lifted, but those who can move their services to an online format should be able to emerge out of the crisis with limited damages to the business. For others such as dog groomers and dog walkers, times are uncertain and it is still not known how long the Coronavirus pandemic will limit our social interactions. Until that time, we must all do our part to ensure that we are practicing safe social distancing and following the other established guidelines for protecting human and animal life alike.