A Tayside dog trainer has sounded a note of alarm at how a generation of ‘lockdown puppies’ are displaying troublesome behaviours like barking, jumping, lunging and general anxiety.
Last week Kirsten Koh of Pretty Happy Dogs – a walking, training and pet photography business operating out of Dundee – suspended her puppy training classes in Errol for two weeks to allow owners to have a big think about how their activities affect their pets’ development.
She believes dogs which have grown up with people not leaving for work and being constantly about have had a confusing start as their owners return to pre-lockdown habits.
Over-stimulation, a lack of routine and not giving guidance for desirable behaviours have given pups problems which, if not corrected, could take a lifetime to unravel.
From a background of human psychology Kirsten (42) moved to the doggy world after embarking on a masters degree at Edinburgh University in clinical animal behaviour.
She started walking dogs in 2017 to get “maximum exposure to as many as possible” then gradually became a respected behavioural trainer taking on private clients and started her own puppy obedience classes in 2019.
So far, despite the disruption of the COVID pandemic, Kirsten has worked with around 60 dogs, doing blocks of six weekly classes outdoors.
But the puppies she has been seeing recently are “failing to focus” and she has had to reconsider if holding puppy classes is worthwhile at the moment as around one in six pups in every class took 20 minutes – half the duration – to calm and focus on training.
“Recently I found classes were just not effective,” she told the PA.
“So I have suspended classes in Errol until owners have looked at a lockdown SOS resources pack I’ve compiled.
“This decision has come from my recent experience with and reports of other similar cases of puppies from all over.
“Many owners are reporting that their puppies are difficult to control because of common issues such as barking, biting, jumping etc.
“These issues have always come up in puppy development, but they shouldn’t impede puppies’ learning in classroom settings.
“The fact that many lockdown puppies are finding it challenging to settle down during class is, to me, an indication that there is a need across this generation of puppies (and owners) for a resource pack to address issues that stem from over-stimulation, under or mishandling, inappropriate routines, inappropriate communication and a lack of guidance for desirable behaviours.
“So I have been developing a lockdown SOS resource pack to get owners and puppies ready for their classes.
“Puppies are not always easy but we must enable our puppies to develop into dogs that are, first and foremost, safe to be around, and socialised confident canine citizens of society.”
On social media PHD apologised to those who had been about to start puppy training classes.
The post read: “The truth is, we could continue starting our new classes as per usual, but our service quality will diminish as we spend half the class managing behaviour. It will frustrate everyone, me included.
“I would rather spend the class time teaching you and your pups skills, to give you the best opportunity to experience the Pretty Happy Dog’s training journey with your dog.”
To comfort those unable to get to her classes, Kirsten offered a free session at the park in Errol to explain her new training strategy which would see owners giving their puppies more routine at home, more undisturbed sleep and stricter cues for how they should behave.
She hopes her lockdown puppy resource pack will be taken up by others who recognise that action needs to be taken to help canines adjust to abnormal times to turn into ‘normal’ dogs.