Popularity of ‘pandemic puppies’ blows up BC dog trainer’s business

Many BC businesses have suffered the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but some have found themselves facing unexpected and unprecedented demand.

Colwood dog trainer Marjanna Wornell runs one such business.

Since soaring adoptions of so-called ‘pandemic puppies’, Wornell’s Middle Earth Canine Academy has seen a deluge of new clients – enough to fill a pair of binders each bigger than an old-fashioned phone book .

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‘When the lockdown came I was getting a little apprehensive, took on a few clients without payment…because they needed the help so badly – ​​as soon as the lockdown was lifted it was just a flood’ , she said.

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“I think for some people it wasn’t quite what they prepared for, especially as they enter their teenage phase, just over six months to just under a year,” she said. “It can be a difficult time.”

Click to play the video: 'Coronavirus: The power of pets in the pandemic'

Coronavirus: The power of pets in the pandemic

Coronavirus: The Power of Pets in the Pandemic – May 31, 2020

Wornell said demand was so high that she worked six days a week and frequently took clients on her day off.

At the aptly named Wornell Dog School, dogs are trained in a small hobbit house that provides an indoor environment where they can be taught what is and is not acceptable indoor behavior.

They are also taught verbal and visual commands – the last of which was crucial for client Zack Dutrisac whose seven-month-old pandemic puppy Finn is deaf.

“A little more work? A lot more work,” he said.

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The New Reality: The Lure of the Pandemic Puppy

The surge in pet adoptions during COVID-19, as many people shifted to working from home or sought additional companionship during restrictions, had raised fears of a corresponding wave of returns.

According to the BC SPCA, that hasn’t happened yet, and that could be partly due to the help of trainers like Wornell who have helped dogs and their owners develop a viable relationship.

“The biggest hope is that now that things are reopening, they won’t bring their pets back to shelters and things like that, because it’s a family member, it’s a commitment.”

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