SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The pandemic brought with it a slew of new pet owners. Apparently, a lot of people stuck at home were looking for a new companion to keep them company.
Now that parks are busier, and more people are getting together, San Diego Humane Society officers are seeing a disturbing and dangerous trend.
“We are seeing an uptick in bites.” SDHS Captain Danee Cook said.
Capt. Cook's law enforcement officers see about five dog bites a day. Some are dog-on-dog, some are humans getting bit, and others are humans breaking up dog fights. The number of bites has gone up as COVID restrictions were relaxed.
“My officers are reporting they’re definitely seeing more bites in the home, and outside at our parks,” Capt. Cook said.
The number of daily dog bites this spring, compared to last spring is up 10%, and those are only the bites reported.
Off-leash citations give a better view of the problem. It's only halfway through the year and officers have already issued 11% more citations than 2020, and 43% more off-leash tickets than in 2019. SDHS Park Patrol commenced on 2/7/21 in the city of San Diego.
It's not just man's best friend misbehaving, it's the dog owners as well, not following leash laws.
“We’re seeing a lot more dogs off leash, because the owners are throwing balls with their dogs and meeting friends and family at parks,” Capt. Cook said.
But there are a lot of training class options for new dog parents, and their pooches to take part in.
“Because of social isolation, distancing there have been a lot of changes to how our dogs are interacting in the public," said Amanda Kowalski, Director of Humane Behavior Programs.
Kowalski suggests new pet owners go slow. "Make sure you’re focusing on the quality of the interaction, versus the quantity of the exposure,” she said.
Here are some other tips before bringing your pup down to a park or dog park: setting up a play date with one other dog, taking them to a dog park at an off-peak time, then to a park at a busier time. Be sure to keep your dog on a leash, and if you see a dog at the park or anywhere out in public, don’t just reach out your hand.
“Best thing to do is step to the side, approach and bend down sideways," Kowalski suggests.
Keep in mind each dog has its own comfort level around strangers. It’s why socialization training, especially as COVID restrictions ease up, is so important.
“I thought she would warm up to people more quickly than she has, so that’s where it’s taken us longer than expected” adoptee Kathryn Murphy said.
Murphy just adopted Émme in February, and says she still needs to go slow with Émme, who isn't fond of men.
“As that person is retreating, she might go for their ankles. We have to go at her pace,” Murphy said.
Murphy says she's been working with Émme the past few months, and a lot of progress has been made.
“You may know your animal is the sweetest animal in the world, but if they don’t act that way that’s your responsibility to control them,” Murphy said.
The Humane Society says a positive result stemming from the pandemic is that its Zoom training sessions have been popular and very successful.
As it turns out, dogs learn better in the home environment, instead of all the distractions that happen at a training facility.
You can access the San Diego Humane Society's virtual training classes, and other class information by clicking here. SDHS also has several YouTube classes you may benefit from.
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