Saskatoon dog trainer sees rise in pandemic puppies not being properly socialized

As a professional dog trainer, Meghan Oesch specializes in correcting bad behavior. But, she says during the pandemic, she received many calls about animals not being properly socialized.

“The biggest problem right now is that no one has gone anywhere and no one has given these dogs the opportunity to see the world,” Oesch said.

Oesch runs Crazy Tails Canine Services in Saskatoon, which offers everything from pet grooming to dog daycare and training.

As more people return to work and start taking their dogs out, Oesch said basic obedience training classes are booked three months in advance.

“They’re starting to notice a little more behavioral issues or a little more training issues and that prompts us to deal with specific things like separation anxiety.”

This is something that dog owners and dog walkers say they have noticed at dog parks as well.

“You have different dog personalities, you have different people with different experiences and I think the problem is that a lot of people don’t have dog-on-dog experience,” said Amanda Woelk, a dog walker.

Joel Vermette, who helps walk and board dogs on, has experience with all types of dogs and says he’s very familiar with ‘pandemic puppies’.

“They are restless and are usually only socialized with their owner and I find that makes them either protective or worried and fearful, and those are bad combinations in a dog that lead to aggression and spontaneous outbursts.”

Last week, a small Terrier mix was attacked by two large dogs at the Sutherland Beach Off-leash Dog Park and died from his injuries.

This incident has prompted owners to ensure their dogs are properly trained and socialized before heading to a park off-leash.

“A dog park is not a place to go if your dog doesn’t have the social skills to be able to interact with other dogs on a regular basis and enjoy those interactions,” Oesch said.

Instead, Oesch recommends people first take their dog to a dog training class or somewhere like a pet store to meet other people and dogs.

“They don’t have to meet every person, they don’t have to meet every other dog, but definitely some good experiences and just take them out and see the world, take a daily walk outside, visit a pet store, this stuff can make all the difference when socializing with a dog.

The City of Saskatoon requires that all dogs attending a dog park are well behaved and able to obey basic commands such as “sit” and “stay”.

It also requires owners whose dog becomes a nuisance to other people or animals to restrain the dog and remove it from the off-leash area.

The city said it has received many requests for an off-leash dog park dedicated to small dogs, something its community services team is securing funding for.

It’s a decision that Oesch supports and says will help prevent injuries and accidents.

“Even the best-meaning big dog can still hurt a small dog even if he doesn’t mean to, even if there’s no aggression, there’s no problem It’s just a matter of size, right? It boils down to the fact that small dogs are more prone to injury, they’re obviously a bit more sensitive and things can happen.

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