Dog Trainer Offers Virtual Classes During Pandemic | News
MORE HEAD — When the novel coronavirus pandemic forced longtime dog trainer Pat Rapaport to temporarily close her establishment, she was worried about her four- and two-legged customers.
This prompted her to offer online training courses as an option, and Ms Rapaport said on Monday it had proven so effective that she planned to continue offering them when she reopened the facility for training sessions. band.
“Some people choose this time at home to adopt new puppies but aren’t able to do the normal kind of human and canine socialization,” said Ms Rapaport, owner of Hole in the Wall Dog Training Center. “Dog owners may also face the possibility of dog separation issues when they return to work. Many dog trainers across the country offer virtual training online. It’s a little different from face to face, but it works.
Ms Rapaport offered her first virtual class on March 25, teaching owners how to help a newly blind dog navigate their home. She has taught seven more virtual classes since. She also gives individual lessons at social distance in her establishment.
Ms Rapaport said she was looking forward to being able to reopen her establishment for group classes, but until then she plans to continue teaching virtually. She said she has lost around 80% of her business since being forced to close her building in Bridges Street.
“The three options I offered my clients were to wait for group classes to resume, to take classes virtually, or to do one-to-one social distancing sessions,” she said. “When I start groups again, they will only be mini-groups. I have a lot of space here, but I know people will always be careful. I will never get the money I lost back. You don’t simply not recover 80% of your loss.
Ms Rapaport said she had asked for emergency funds set up for sole proprietors, but so far had no response. She is working with her landlord on the rent. She, like many other small business owners, hopes she can survive the pandemic.
“I love my job. I love people and I love dogs and seeing them reach their potential,” she said.
Among those taking virtual lessons are Cedar Point’s Geraldine Carey and her dog Bentley, a one-year-old male boxer and pit bull mix. Ms Carey and her daughter, Addison, 11, were taking Bentley to Doggie Manners classes when the pandemic forced Ms Rapaport to shut down her group sessions.
When Ms Rapaport offered the option to continue virtually, Ms Carey said she jumped at the chance.
“We had taken three courses in person and took two virtually,” Ms. Carey said. “So far everything has gone very well. I want to use Bentley as a therapy dog. I have three children and would like to take him with the children to nursing homes.
Ms. Carey, in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, also hopes to take Bentley to Wounded Warrior Barracks at Camp Lejeune.
To facilitate virtual classes, Ms. Rapaport sets up her laptop camera and uses Zoom to demonstrate dog training techniques at her facility while dog owners observe from their homes. Owners then work with their dogs on the new techniques while Ms. Rapaport observes and makes suggestions.
Sometimes Ms. Rapaport uses one of her personal dogs to demonstrate, while other times she uses a stuffed demonstration dog.
Rapaport said she meets virtually once a week with other dog trainers across the country to learn new virtual teaching techniques and brainstorm ideas with trainers.
“Meetings are very helpful,” she says. “That’s where I learned about Zoom, small business relief packages, and puppy socialization advice.”
Ms Rapaport expressed concern about the effects of social distancing and stay-at-home orders on dogs, puppies and owners.
“We’ve had a few calls from owners whose dogs have separation anxiety because the owners are away more or the dogs don’t exercise as often,” she said.
“On the other hand, while it’s nice that many dog owners are home all day because their workplace is closed, it can create another set of problems because a dog has an established routine. They’re used to their owners being gone, and now all of a sudden they won’t nap or feed at a certain time.I tell owners to try to stay with as much routine as possible. If a dog is normally fed at 6 a.m., continue feeding after that.Also be aware that once you return to work, there may be some separation anxiety.
Dogs often show separation anxiety by tearing something up.
While she encourages dog owners to continue walking and exercising with their dogs, don’t overdo it.
“If you constantly walk your dog when he’s not used to it, it can be harmful,” she said.
Another problem is that owners who aren’t used to being with their dogs all day lose their temper with their pets, she added.
For new puppy owners, Ms Rapaport said it was important to find ways to expose them to different socializing situations, even with social distancing in place.
“Get them out of the house several times a day, even if it’s just walking around the block. It gets them used to driving. It allows them to see other people and they need to see other dogs,” she said. “They need to be exposed to things in different environments.”
If an owner doesn’t have a car, they can wear different outfits, like wearing hats and a raincoat, or bring a neighbor over so the pup can see different people. Owners can also put boxes in their home for the puppy to learn to adapt to different things in their environment.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.
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