Contributed by Kaitlyn Arford for AKC
More people than ever before are opening their hearts and homes to puppies during the coronavirus pandemic. For those who are self-isolating, puppies provide welcome wagging tails and comforting cuddles. Plus, many puppy seekers are discovering they now have the crucial element needed to raise a good dog: time.
So, is now the right time to get a puppy? The answer to that question depends on each person and family. Were you prepared to get a puppy before COVID-19? Do you have the financial stability and resources? Do you have access to a vet? After you return to your normal schedule, are you prepared to continue caring for your dog?
For those who are fully prepared for the responsibility puppyhood brings, it’s a perfect time to help a new pet adjust to their home and work on essential training skills. Responsible breeders have always practiced safety and cleanliness protocols and many are willing to meet potential buyers via online video chats or phone calls, then transfer the puppy while maintaining social distancing.
If you decide to get a puppy, make sure you wash your hands, clothes, and shoes before and after picking up your new dog. Stay at least 6-12 feet from any breeder or person. Do not make any stops on the way to the breeder, and complete payment and paperwork ahead of time. While dogs are not currently at risk of contracting COVID-19, it is possible an infected person could transmit it from their mouth to the dog’s fur or face, and you could pick it up from touching the dog then touching your face.
Curious about what it’s really like to get a puppy right now? We talked to three recent puppy buyers about their experiences during COVID-19.
Brian Goldberg, Sam Busa, and Barkley: “He brings a lot of joy to people.”
Brian Goldberg and his wife, Sam Busa, spoke for months before the pandemic about bringing home a puppy. But between careers and commutes, these new homeowners couldn’t get the timing right. When their jobs transitioned to remote, they realized they had a unique opportunity.
That’s when Goldberg began reaching out to breeders within a 250-mile radius in search of the perfect pup. The couple knew what they wanted: an 8- to 10-week-old male Golden Retriever puppy.
Goldberg began by sorting through breeders on the AKC Marketplace. He found a breeder in Vermont, three hours away, that had one available.
Since the breeder was far away, most communication was virtual. They traded questions, videos, and photos over the phone before meeting.
The couple knew they wanted to make the final decision in person. When they met the breeder, they stayed six feet apart and weren’t allowed to enter any buildings. The puppy walked toward Goldberg and Busa, and they knew this was the one they wanted. They scooped the puppy off the ground without ever coming closer to the breeder.
“It felt pretty weird not to shake hands with the guy who just gave you a pup but we took all the precautions we could,” said Goldberg, “and then we brought him home.”
In the span of a week, they went from talking about puppyhood to welcoming 7-week-old Barkley to their home.
Even taking Barkley to his first veterinarian visit was different during the coronavirus. Goldberg had to determine which veterinarians were open. He then did a curbside appointment with a veterinarian dressed in full PPE gear. Though Goldberg was sad he couldn’t go inside with his new puppy, he understood the importance of safety. Goldberg and Busa ordered every puppy necessity online instead of shopping for supplies.
Barkley is now an honorary staff member as he entertains their colleagues during Zoom meetings.
“I think he brings a lot of joy to people who are otherwise kind of down these days,” said Goldberg. “It’s wonderful to have him at home. He’s been a very pleasant distraction. Our moods have 100 percent improved since having him. Now it’s much more pleasurable to be stuck in the house.”
Katelyn Yannie, Alex Lichorat, and Stella: “We had been wanting a puppy for a long time.”
When Katelyn Yannie and her husband, Alex Lichorat, started working from home because of COVID-19, they also began searching online for a puppy.
They wanted an energetic puppy that could keep up with their active lifestyle. The couple had wanted a puppy for a long time — Lichorat, who grew up with dogs, and Yannie, who never owned one — but both were too busy with work. They planned to add a puppy to their lives eventually, but now had time and energy to bring a puppy home immediately.
That’s when they found an Australian Shepherd breeder.
“It was kind of on a whim,” Yannie notes. “We found out we both were going to be working from home for a while and decided to drive up and pick her up.”
When they met the breeder, they waved hello rather than shaking hands. Standing six feet apart, the breeder spoke to Yannie and Lichorat as they cuddled her.
Now, 10-week-old Australian Shepard Stella is part of the family.
Stella discovers something new every day, like her love of belly rubs and pouncing Bocci balls. She’s even discovered things she shouldn’t do, like chewing a couch. Most importantly, she’s discovered how to bring happiness to her family.
“We watch the news. We have an idea of what’s going on. But in general, I don’t think anyone really knows how long this will last. So she’s calming both of us down. She gives us something to take our minds off the news,” said Yannie. “She’s just a wonderful addition to the family.”
The Goldblatts and Finley Tuck: “It was the perfect time to bring home a puppy.”
When Adam Goldblatt had to cancel his family’s two-week trip to Spain this May because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they decided it was time to add another dog to the family.
The family had been grieving a deeply loved West Highland White Terrier named Tavish, who died in September, age 14, from lymphoma.
“Our first Westie was one in a million. People say that about Westies in general, but he really was,” said Goldblatt. “So I knew we wouldn’t have the same experience but we wanted another Westie.”
Goldblatt started the search online, looking for Westie puppies within a 300-mile radius through a Westie breed club. He contacted breeders and organizations over phone and email until he found someone with a puppy available.
Since the puppy was the last of the litter, it was easy for Goldblatt to meet both puppy and breeder while social distancing. They met outside and stood far apart. Goldblatt was able to hold and play with the puppy, both parents, and a littermate.
He even learned that the puppy was born January 19, just one day after Tavish’s birthday on January 18.
When Goldblatt took the puppy to their longtime veterinarian for his first wellness visit, he couldn’t meet the vet inside. Instead, a staffer picked up Finley Tuck curbside, and the veterinarian called later with the results.
But he did see another heart-wrenching moment: a dog going inside for his last moments and a family who couldn’t follow. It took him back to September when the family lost their beloved Westie, Tavish.
Now, 10-week-old Finley Tuck is a hit with the family, including the Goldblatt’s 21- and 24-year-old children Emily and Zoli, and their 6-year-old rescue dog, Whiskey. The family named him Finley Tuck: Finley for the Carter-Finley Stadium and Tuck for the T in Tavish.
The Goldblatts have time to train their new puppy since everyone’s working from home. But having people at home 24/7 confuses Finley Tuck.
“He’s like, ‘Why, why am I in the crate? because I know you’re home,'” said Goldblatt. They often have to be in different rooms than Finley Tuck to get him used to being in the crate.
“I’m glad I can do this now with my family,” said Goldblatt. “It definitely has brought us all a lot of enjoyment but I would feel a lot more stressed if I wasn’t home. If we weren’t having to share some of the responsibilities, that would be a lot more challenging.”
The AKC is here to help dog owners adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Find answers to all your coronavirus concerns, plus at-home activity ideas, training tips, educational resources, and more at our ‘Coping With Coronavirus COVID-19′ hub.