Returning to the office leads to a big business for pet trainers in North Bay

When Kerry Finn lost her 16-year-old miniature Pinscher Roman in September 2020, she promised him that she would learn to love again.

Two months later, she rescued Jimmy, a mix of mini Chihuahua Pinschers. Their two hearts merged, intensifying as the pandemic kept the senior Sephora project manager at home with him remotely working in San Francisco.

It has joined a huge group of 23 million American households who adopted a pet during a pandemic, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said. But she knew in her mind that the day would come, that she would be asked to return to the office.

“I just wanted to be prepared,” she said over the phone, shouting, “Leave him alone” as Jimmy barked something outside. “Hold on. I’ll give him a treat. “

Jimmy was suddenly silent.

Before having to report to the office three days a week, starting last March, she set up surveillance cameras and left the house for hours to see how Jimmy would do without her there.

“It was a disaster,” she said.

Finn, 53, remembered Jimmy suddenly peeing in the house, jumping everywhere and panting as he walked.

She later learned from a pet trainer that Jimmy suffers from separation anxiety, which is a stress response “that a dog experiences when the person (or people) with whom the dog is related is away from home,” she said. PetMD.com.

Finn sought help and soon discovered that she was not alone.

Phones ring off the hook at North Day Dog Centers and Training Centers, as well as independent trainers in Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties.

“It took me a while to find a coach,” Finn said.

Last October, she found Margie Pearson Animal Healer, a 65-year-old woman from Mill Valley who uses holistic healing techniques such as botanical oils, acupuncture and Reiki energy to soothe and help treat pets who are dealing with behavioral problems.

The first time they met, Pearson urged Finn to take Jimmy outside to where she was standing next to her car on neutral ground, away from the house. That way, Jimmy would refrain from trying to protect Finn on their turf.

For each visit, Jimmy progressed through zoopharmacognosy, a behavior in which animals self-medicate by ingesting plant products to reduce toxins. Problematic dogs demonstrate their need for training by showing symptoms of chaotic behavior such as constant barking, licking paws, running and barking, Pearson said.

Jimmy has calmed down a lot since then, Finn said.

“Margie has so much passion. We started with once a week at the beginning. With a rescue dog, you need to build that trust. It’s now once a month – maintenance, “Finn said.

The animal treatment business

“I’ve always wanted to work with animals,” Pearson said.

Armed with a master’s degree in psychology, Pearson appears to be “whispering to dogs,” but she has worked with a variety of animals for more than six years. This includes cats, horses, donkeys, goats, turkeys and dogs. Like other trainers and centers, she is busier than ever.

The connection begins with a free half-hour tip. Then two sessions, adding up to five hours, which cost $ 650. Although she declined to provide financial information about her private company, Pearson says her business has doubled this year compared to 2019 (2020 as a year of decline, which she called “non-existent”). Prospects continue to grow. She receives an average of about 30 calls a month from pet owners in need.

“During the pandemic, many people received rescue animals that were already in trouble anyway. “All they knew 24/7 was their family, no visitors,” she said.

Cynthia Reinhart, who owns Pets R Family 2 in Napa, called the animals adopted during the pandemic “COVID puppies”, adding that even with employees working from home, they were at least around their pets. Zoom meetings made pet photo bombs a regular practice during the pandemic. Some lay on laptops, nearby chairs or sofas. Others scratched the door. Many barked. But the behavior shattered the monotony of the workplace atmosphere.

But what happens when pet owners cut the cord and return to the office?

“It’s hard. The big concern is that the pet is used to being there all day,” Reinhart said.

In Sonoma County, Camilla Gray-Nelson’s Dairydell Canine Ranch has also witnessed a huge increase in interest from pet owners in need of behavior training for their furry companions.

“What we are seeing is unprecedented in the number of dogs introduced into families. A flood of people got puppies. On top of that, they go to people who may know nothing about dogs and just want a friend and companion, “said Gray-Nelson.

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