Trainers and behaviorists have seen a rise in cases of dog aggression, fear, and anxiety since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and global stay-at-home orders. Even very young puppies, ages 8-12 weeks old, are developing aggression issues such as resource guarding and people aggression.
Dog bites in children have risen while kids are home more, with virtual school and limited outings. A pediatric emergency department in Colorado saw nearly three times as many children with injuries from dog bites this spring compared to last year at the same time, prompting concerns that stay-at-home orders and other COVID-19-related lifestyle changes may be to blame.
These findings are not related to one region or state, this is a global problem. Dog Trainers and Dog Behavior Consultants from around the world have been discussing this trend for the past 6 months on message boards and podcasts.
“I’ve seen an increase in adult dogs that are suddenly developing serious behavior issues related to stress and anxiety, possibly coming from the owners who are working from home. A lot of these dogs are over stimulated and under exercised. Neither is a good combination for preventing aggression,” says Dale Buchanan, Dog Trainer and Owner of Top Gun Dog Training.
3 Tips to Help Lower the Stress Level of Your Dogs:
Dogs need plenty of enrichment, even during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It’s important to implement three basic components to creating a more balanced dog.
1. Get your dog a lot of exercise. This includes long walks and off leash running either at the dog park or using a 30 ft long line.
2. Provide your dog with mental simulation. Engage your dog with basic and advanced obedience training daily. Challenge their mind.
3. Make sure that your dog gets socialization with other dogs and people daily.
“Dog parks and doggie daycare should be open in most cities. Taking your dog or puppy to pet friendly retail locations like Home Depot, Bass Pro Shops, and almost all pet stores can help the dog socialize and do something fun with the owners,” says Buchanan. “This is the enrichment that your dog may need to help them become more balanced and stable. Dog aggression is based out of fear and anxiety, so you want to make sure you do everything possible to keep you and your dogs calm and relaxed during the pandemic.”
These dog management tips are not meant to fix aggression, however implementing them can serve as preventive management. If your dog is already aggressive, it would be best to contact a dog trainer or dog behavior consultant such as Top Gun Dog Training to help integrate a plan of behavior modification.