Popularity of ‘pandemic puppies’ has business booming for B.C. dog trainer

Click to play video: 'Dog trainer run off her feet keeping up with demand'
Dog trainer run off her feet keeping up with demand
WATCH: A dog trainer in Colwood on Vancouver Island is working six days a week and accepting bookings into the winter. She's doing it just to keep up with demand from people who bought animals as companions during the pandemic. – Jul 28, 2021

Many B.C. businesses have suffered due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but some have found themselves dealing with unexpected and unprecedented demand.

Colwood dog trainer Marjanna Wornell runs one of those businesses.

Since the surge in adoptions of so-called “pandemic puppies,” Wornell’s Middle Earth Canine Academy has seen a deluge of new clients — enough to fill a pair of binders each bigger than an old-fashioned phone book.

“When the lockdown came I was getting a little concerned, I took a few clients without payments … because they were so desperate for help — as soon as the lockdown was lifting, it was just a flood,” she said.

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“I think for some people it wasn’t quite what they prepared for, especially when they get into their adolescent phase, just over six months to just under a year,” she said. “That can be a trying time.”

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus:  The power of pets in the pandemic'
Coronavirus: The power of pets in the pandemic

Wornell said the demand is so high she’s working six days a week, and frequently taking clients on her day off too.

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At Wornell’s aptly-named dog school, dogs are trained in a little hobbit house that provides an indoor environment where they can be taught what is and what isn’t acceptable behaviour indoors.

They’re also taught verbal and visual commands — the later of which has been crucial for client Zack Dutrisac whose seven-month old pandemic pup Finn is deaf.

“A little bit more work? A lot more work,” he said.

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The surge in pet adoptions over the course of COVID-19, as many people moved to working from home or sought additional companionship during restrictions, had raised concerns that there could be a corresponding wave of returns.

According to the BC SPCA, that hasn’t happened yet, and that could be in part due to help from trainers like Wornell who have helped dogs and their owners develop a workable relationship.

“The biggest hope is that now that things are opening up again, they’re not going to be returning their pets to shelters and things like that, because it’s a family member its a commitment.”

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