What to Know About Adopting a Dog During the Pandemic

Clear the Shelters

LOS ANGELES, CA – MAY 07: Christine Gamez of Fullerton returns her fostered bulldog named Tyson to the South LA animal shelter during the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, May 7, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA. Gamez is devastated that she can no longer continue to foster Tyson sue to her current living situation. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

If there’s one positive to come out of this pandemic, it’s the increase in pet adoptions nationwide.

People craving companionship in this isolating time are turning to shelters to find their new best friend.

If you previously shied away from getting a dog due to working outside the home, you may now find yourself in an ideal situation. But remember that adopting a pet is a commitment to care for that pet for their entire life.

If you’re willing and able to take on that kind of responsibility, here are some things you should know about the adoption process in the age of coronavirus.

The Risk of Getting COVID-19 From Your New Pet Is Extremely Low

Dr. Douglas Kratt, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association said “it doesn’t appear that pets are playing a role in spreading the virus.” He advises to be careful but not to be fearful. The AVMA suggests the following guidelines to keep you and your pet safe:

  • Wash your hands after caring for or playing with your pets, and before and after feeding them
  • Keep their bedding, food and water bowl, and collars and leashes clean
  • Social distance with your pet from other people and their pets

Worst case scenario if you do become infected with COVID-19, it’s ideal to have someone else in your household care for your pet so that they can receive the best care possible and you yourself can focus on getting better.

If your pet becomes ill for any reason, contact your veterinarian. “If you have postponed providing preventive care for your pet due to COVID-19, speak with your veterinarian to find out how to best get your pet back on track with regular check-ups,” Kratt said.

Here’s more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Adoption Process Is Different Now

Animal shelters are closed and virtual meet-and-greets have replaced in-person adoption events. Clear The Shelters’ Adopt & Donate partners We Rescue and 24PetWatch are helping connect people to animals in their local area.

Those looking for a new pet can use the WeRescue iOS app to locate adoptable pets near their zip code, submit their pet adoption applications through shelters’ websites, and ask questions directly to shelters. 24PetWatch is enabling shelters to increase their exposure through 24Petshelter.com/cleartheshelter, a free website providing a full list of participating shelters and their adoptable pets along with a link to contact them.

Your local rescue will provide more information on how they’re handling adoptions during the coronavirus pandemic but in general, you should:

  • Call to make appointments ahead of time
  • Cancel appointments if you’re feeling sick or someone in your household is sick
  • Keep social distancing when you visit the shelter
  • Wear a mask to protect shelter workers and volunteers

You’re Going to Need More Stuff

In addition to the standard necessities – crate, food, bowl, etc. – you may want to want to get some pet-specific paw wipes and other useful products. Nicole Ellis, a certified professional dog trainer with Rover, recommends paw wipes for reducing dirt and wiping away potential allergens like pollen and dander. But just as baby wipes cannot kill germs like the coronavirus, paw wipes can’t either.

Here are a few of her recommendations:

  • Biothane leash – “They’re a plastic material that you can wipe down easily with Clorox wipes or something like that. It’s not like a fabric so it’s nice and easy to clean.”
  • Pet Wipes – “If you take your dog to the dog park and they’re running around and they’re rough and toughing it out with other dogs, I would definitely wipe my dog off afterward with the wipe before I go cuddle my dog and go hold them and hug them.”
  • Paw Spray – “This is an antibacterial that kills 99.99% of germs and bacteria. And it’s super safe for household pets, kids, everything.”

Dr. Gary Richter, an award-winning Veterinary Health Expert with Rover.com, says there’s no need to use special “sanitizing” products on your pet. “In fact, hand sanitizer, with its high alcohol content, should not be applied to your dog (or cat). Instead, an ordinary bath with pet-safe soap or shampoo will suffice,” Richter says.

“Washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, and sanitizing surfaces are important recommendations in any home, with or without pets,” he added.

Take Advantage of Virtual Pet Care Services

Wag! is one of the dog walking services available nationwide. If you take social distancing seriously, hiring an outside dog walker may sound concerning to you. But thanks to technology, money never needs to exchange hands and your dog walker doesn’t ever have to step foot inside your home. You can pay for services through the Wag! app with a credit card, Apple pay or Google pay. You can pass off to the dog walker at your front door. Just remember to wear a mask when interacting.

Wag! CEO Garrett Smallwood said the company has created an optional online informational session for dog walkers to take, where they can become educated on best practices per the latest CDC guidance. Smallwood said tens of thousands of pet caretakers on the platform have taken the course. You can identify them by a badge next to their name.

Wag! also offers digital training for pet parents that’s a one-on-one training session via video chat. And if something ever comes up and you need to speak to a vet, there’s also 24/7 virtual veterinary care. “It’s way more affordable than going to the true vet and it’s also socially distant since it’s over chat,” Smallwood said.

Prepare Your New Dog for a Post-Pandemic World

If you’re spending a lot of time at home but you normally would be at work, it’s important to try to set your dog up for future success.

Ellis said to start training your newly-adopted animal as soon as you bring them home. Don’t just sit at home all day. Dogs like routines. Any kind of change is stressful for them so you want to try to mitigate that as much as possible.

Socialization is critical for puppies as well as adult dogs but you probably don’t want to be meeting people right now, nor do you want to go to any dog parks. Because many people have been quarantining, Ellis said there’s been an uptick in dogs that are more fearful of sounds, people, children, and other dogs. To combat this, Ellis suggests playing YouTube videos of buses and sounds and playing them quietly in the house. “Slowly make them louder to get them used to all these new things while still remaining safe and in your home,” Ellis said.

Another tip is to sit on a park bench with your dog with your mask on. “Don’t talk to anybody but reward him for just watching the world go by. Just seeing things is huge for their socialization and could be relaxing for you as well.”

Similar to how parents are forming pods for their children, Ellis suggests linking up with a neighbor or friend as a safer alternative to dog parks. “Create a little community. Find a dog that your dog gets along well with. And it’s not too much stimulation for them. It’s not gonna be scary for them. And we can also help combat that separation anxiety too with some time away from you,” Ellis said.

With all the time spent at home, it’s also a great time to practice crate training. “Find a dog walker, give them a toy or snuffle mat and just have them in a room away from you for like five or 10 minutes. Build it up. Because when you have to go back to work or you just need to leave your house, having to stress that dog is gonna make everything way more complicated.”

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