Is having a new puppy like having a newborn in the house? More than I ever appreciated. – Toronto Star

My youngest son, Alister, and I stood by the crate, talking in hushed voices.

Our new puppy, home with us for the first time that afternoon, had gone into the crate an hour ahead of the schedule wed been provided by the breeder.

Is she down for the night, you think? I asked my 13-year-old, like he would somehow know.

I dont know. Maybe?

It was 10 in the evening. The breeder had said she could last from 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. in the crate. If she went down now, would she be up at 4:30 a.m.? I wondered aloud with all the uncertainty of a first-time mom to a human baby.

Well, if she is down for the night, well have to close the crate door then, I said, edging toward a decision.

Shell wake up if we close the door, said Alister.

But we cant not close the door ...

In the end we stealthily closed the door and backed out of the room, tiptoeing our way around the creakier parts of the hardwood floor, up the stairs and out of earshot where we could further speculate on Poppys sleep schedule.

It was the start of what has been close to four weeks now of canine caregiving lessons that have opened my two teen boys eyes to some of the responsibilities of parenting better than any episode of Degrassi or a Tamagotchi toy could have done.

With interest in pet ownership skyrocketing during the pandemic while many families have more time at home to bond with and train their new animal and little else to lift their spirits households across the country are in the throes of puppy parenting.

The Toronto Humane Society had a 100 per cent adoption rate of all the animals in its shelter during April and May, compared to 93.5 per cent the same time last year. Reputable dog breeders have wait lists that stretch well into 2021 and beyond.

Everyone tells prospective puppy parents that itll be just like having a newborn in the household again. Subtracting the breastfeeding, colic and diaper changes, theyre more right than I fully appreciated.

The vigilance required for house training and keeping puppies away from choking hazards and other things that shouldnt go in their mouths is a little like being on alert with a newly mobile crawling baby or toddler. The zombie-like fatigue from night waking is definitely reminiscent of early parenting, as is the way our new responsibilities shape dialogue in our home these days.

Now were reporting to each other when our dog last had a pee or poo, how long she napped and when she last ate.

While I work, my boys negotiate off-duty time with each other to do other things, like take a shower or play a little Mario Cart.

We talk about the witching hour when Poppy gets a little hyper and hard to handle in the evening, like a cranky period with a baby. We arrange her daily play dates with the little kids next door and chart her progress on things like responding to the sit command.

And just like isolated new parents stuck at home more than ever, we notice that life is a little easier to handle when were showing off our cute new addition to people we meet on the sidewalk or friends who come by for a socially distanced backyard visit.

Although it happens that welcoming a dog to our home was in the works before COVID-19 hit, the pandemic can present an opportune time to adopt a pet, said Hannah Sotropa, public relations specialist for the Toronto Humane Society.

We really advocate that when youre looking at an adoption, you need to look at especially during this time the longevity of that decision, said Sotropa. COVID-19 will come to an end and when that time does come, looking at whether an animal still suits your lifestyle will be great in setting you, but also the animal, up for success.

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Making it work with a COVID-19 puppy comes down to being proactive as opposed to reactive, she said. That means beginning to prepare your puppy now for life in the after times and whatever sort of return to a previous routine it will bring.

If normally youre out of the house for an eight-hour shift, that means slowly working your pet up to that level of independence.

Using a crate or sanctuary room, possibly gating off an area, get your pet adjusted to being on their own in that space while the family is in other parts of the home, said Sotropa. Work your way up to departures slowly and incrementally.

The other important thing is to spread the responsibilities for your new pet among the members of your household.

Animals often get hyper attached to one person who does most of the walking, the feeding, the loving, said Sotropa.

This person we want to make less significant so that if they do have to go back to work, the animal knows, well, the other members in the house are going to provide me with what I need.

Deena Cooper, who trains and boards dogs through her business, is already getting calls from people who are in over their heads with the responsibilities of a new puppy. Most of these pets came home during the social distancing period when puppy training classes were mostly suspended or few and far between.

Im getting lots of people wanting me to board and train their dogs; their dogs could be as young as eight weeks old, said Cooper. In some cases these new owners have fond memories of growing up with a dog but are now struggling with a puppy waking them up at night and demanding a lot of attention during the day while theyre also trying to care for their human children.

In other cases the puppies are a bit older and theyve established a lot of crazy behaviours like jumping up, nipping and barking that havent been properly addressed early.

Sotropa asks that anyone still contemplating a pandemic pet adoption think the decision through carefully.

Make no mistake that having an animal is the most rewarding, the most incredible experience; its a bond like youll have with no other, she said. However, they are a commitment and they are a commitment through thick and thin. We dont want to see animals end up back in the shelter.

This article has been changed from a previous version to correct the name of Deena Coopers business.




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Is having a new puppy like having a newborn in the house? More than I ever appreciated. - Toronto Star

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