We have added some updates in relation to business and self-employment supports at the end. At this time, our policies in relation to client contact and sessions remain the same – we have not been exposed and will notify all appointments if that happens with alternatives or rescheduling arrangements.
Our priority is, of course, the health and safety of our staff and clients. The COVID-19 pandemic is pretty scary, and we certainly don’t want to alarm anyone or appear to over-react. We have qualifications and training in animal healthcare, including biology and biochemistry, and are doing our best to take an evidence-based approach.
We also have staff and colleagues who are in regular contact with vulnerable persons so it’s important we bear that in mind too, in terms of transmission.
Straight forward information here:
First, there is no evidence, at this time, that dogs or other pets can become infected and spread this Coronavirus.
You might have heard of a dog in Hong Kong that has been quarantined after testing a ‘weak positive’. It is likely that this is a result of environmental transmission, given that the dog’s owner is infected. The dog is not infected or showing signs of illness.
But, pets and their belongings may be a source of transmission, if they have come into contact with an infected person, e.g. spread via touching their coat or bedding.
Lots of in-depth information here:
For Human Courses
To avoid disappointment and disruption, we have moved all our (human) courses (for March and April) to online delivery and given our students a break from deadlines and course starts so as not to add to the pressure. This may be extended as required.
All students have been informed well in advance; last month, as we foresaw this development.
We have also suspended all assessment deadlines and course starts to further relieve learners’ pressure. Students can choose how they wish to proceed and we will revise again at the end of April.
For training and behaviour clients
- we ask that if you are ill, have been in contact with an infected person and/or have been in a relevant country or area within the last month, that you let us know before our session
We will, of course, do the same and arrange alternatives for you.
- you can let us know right up to the time of your session and we will discuss this with you – we are relaxing our cancellation policy during this time
- if you must postpone your session, are ill and/or under self-isolation, that doesn’t mean we can’t train! There are so many things that we can do remotely via Skype or other tech and we use it regularly. Your session can still go ahead and we will still be able to provide you with top-notch service, instruction and support.
- we recognise that lots of people may have to give up work (and salary) to care for children off school or due to restrictions in their business/place of work, for example, and/or invest in child care or pet care outside their normal budget, for example, and as such welcome you to discuss payment plans for any services
- we tend not to handle your dog a whole lot during training and don’t often take your dog’s lead or equipment, for example, and from now on, we won’t do that at all during sessions unless absolutely necessary (for safety).
Disinfectant wipes can be used on equipment after handling, for example. We will be using disinfectant wipes on any equipment we share with you too.
- we will wash our hands regularly throughout the day, whenever possible, and will apply appropriate hand sanitiser before entering your home.
Hand sanitiser can pose a health risk (alcohol poisoning) to pets so we will not apply it during our work with you and your pet.
We will not be booking consecutive sessions at this time, so will not be moving from one house to another. This allows us to change and clean up before attending a session.
- We won’t shake hands when meeting with you, as we so often do, and will follow social distancing guidelines during sessions too.
To aid this, we request that only a small number of family members participate, ideally just the primary care giver/s. Don’t worry, we will send you your report/handbook with lots of videos and resources so everyone can practice.
Our Corona Virus Policy can be downloaded here.
Given this ongoing shut down affecting normal life, we also want to make sure you feel that you have continued support for you and your pet. Isolation, and indeed panic, can affect mental health too. Advice here for dealing with concerns, anxiety and maintaining your mental health; from the NY Times, A Brain Hack to Break the Coronoavirus Anxiety Cycle, and I think this from AFSP is particularly helpful and practical: Taking Care of your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty.
We are, as dog trainers, limited in what we can do but certainly want to do what we can!
To help, we will be running another REBOOT of #100daysofenrichment again next week. Subscribe to this blog and each day’s challenges will be sent to your email inbox every morning.
Join our Facebook group to share your experiences, interact with other participating pet owners, have some fun and bask in the loveliness of this group of devoted enrichers. More on this to come!
The keys to limiting spread (and ‘flattening the curve’) include:
- wash your hands properly and regularly (sing “Happy Birthday!” twice while hand washing)
We are particularly interested in behavioural science; here is more on this new hand washing trend from a behavioural sciences point of view.
- use hand sanitiser (at least 60% alcohol) when you can’t wash your hands and keep it away from pets; let it dry into your hands before touching your pet or their belongings
- maintain social distancing (at least 2m)
- avoid hand-to-face actions
Check out this instruction on teaching yourself, using behaviour science, to reduce face touching:
- comply with guidelines in relation to social gatherings, self-isolation and so on
- there is no need to wear a mask unless you are concerned you might spread disease
- look out for and help vulnerable individuals while maintaining caution
- use appropriate cleaners to clean and disinfect surfaces you touch and handle regularly
Caring for your pets:
- make sure you have enough of any specific food or medications for your pet for two weeks, in case you can’t get to a shop, the vet, or order online
- construct an emergency plan for your pets, just in case you are taken ill or must go to hospital, e.g. who will care for them, how will they be exercised. Discuss their care with a trusted person and make sure your pet has some time to become familiar with them, especially them entering your home
- if you become ill, you are advised to reduce contact with pets, as with other family members. If you must care for your pet while ill, wear a mask during contact and close-up interaction, and wash your hands before and after contact.
Clean pet equipment carefully and regularly.
This is an evolving policy as things are changing fast, but we will keep you all updated with changes as we go.
Business procedures and concerns
Aside from illness, economical concerns are also running high and it’s likely that small businesses and the self-employed will be hardest hit.
First, play safe!
You are welcome to pull from our policy and resources for your own needs. Different pet businesses will require different procedures, however, that aren’t relevant to our policy.
For example, you might need to add some variation of the following:
- organise electronic payments so that you don’t have to handle cash
- go to the client’s car to take the dog in or drop off
- use your own lead on the dog
- ask pet owners not to leave belongings with their pets, but if it’s required, e.g. bedding, wash it in a 60C wash before use and advise they do the same when taking it back
What other procedures work for your set-up and safety?
Ireland, just today, has been shut down, to some extent, until 29th March. Small businesses, like ours, struggle in the face of even slight down-turns in trade, so this is likely to be very impactful.
We won’t know how much our businesses are affected by these closures, but it’s clear that we will have plenty of catching up to do out the other side of this. This means it may be important to examine your business planning and perhaps not invest in anything too hefty at the moment.
The Department is providing resources for businesses in responding to this pandemic here.
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection also provides supports (summary here) and Corona Virus specific advice here.
How available these will be to individual businesses is going to be the responsibility of each business owner to investigate their eligibility.
In order to access information about eligibility and payments, I recommend that you apply for a PSC, if you haven’t done so yet. This will allow you to access everything you need online so may be important as this rolls on.
There is a bit of rigmarole in the application, with an in-person interview required in low-risk circumstances, but once that’s done, it’s all much easier.
More on this here: Public Services Card.
There’s detail and links with the Minister’s announcement including lower cost loans, expanded loaning, increased loan brackets; see SCBI and MFI. Discuss allowances your personal and business banking may afford you, should you and your business be affected.
As scary as all this seems, it’s important to channel your concern into proactively looking into what might be available to your business, what you might need and the extent to which you may be affected.
Take care of yourself.
Being self-employed and working for yourself, can be very lonely. This is compounded even further when social isolation is recommended, on top of extra stresses surrounding work and fincances.
Having to take all this on, while also interacting less, travelling less, just having less freedom and being concerned about our health and that of our loved ones, is very likely to add to your normal level of day-to-day stress.
You are certainly not alone in all that.
We have written about self care for dog trainers and related fields before here, and the unique challenges we often face in our chosen profession here.
Please take some time to consider how you are going to care for yourself during these testing times.
Reach out and create a community, or nurture the one in which you already participate – we will all need help and support through out…just via remote means rather than face to face contact!