For dog walkers, all this uncertainty has turned scheduling into a game of Tetris, with clients calling on a Sunday night asking for a Monday walk, or only needing erratic care. While their needs might be inconsistent, they nonetheless often want consistency for their pets, requesting the same walker every time. “It’s really difficult for us to say, ‘This person is available for your every need that you’re going to have,’ because that’s just not realistic,” said Dani Pedraza, an owner of the Big City Woof Walker, a dog walking service that operates in New York City and Chicago. “It’s hard for them to grasp that.”
Ms. Pedraza said because of staffing shortages, she occasionally needed to cancel walks, something that never happened before the pandemic. On the upside, clients have grown accustomed to living in a world where goods and services don’t always arrive on time. They’re more patient than before the pandemic, when many would call if a walker was even a minute late.
Once the dogs do get out of the house, their new caretakers are grappling with a generation of pups with iffy social skills. Born into a world locked down, many of them missed socialization opportunities. If no one ever knocks on the door, how is a dog to know that he shouldn’t lose his mind when a stranger walks into his empty apartment, puts a leash on his collar and takes him on a walk with a dozen other hyped-up puppies? Ms. Pedraza said that one of her walkers recently left an apartment because the dog would not stop barking and growling.
If dog trainers were swamped in 2020 with new owners hoping to teach their pups basic manners, 2021 is about teaching them not to melt down when everyone leaves. Lonely pups are destroying baseboards, sofas and barking so incessantly that the neighbors call to complain.
“People who don’t even know their dogs have separation anxiety are going to leave for eight hours in September and they’re dogs are going to flip out,” said Holly Santana, the director of training at Dog Done Good, a Westchester dog trainer.
The humans are anxious, too. Doggie day cares are fielding more midday calls from worried owners, asking to see photos and videos of their pets at play. “The people have much more anxiety than the pets,” said Ms. Isenstein, of Camp Canine. “Many of the dogs are puppies, so they’re psyched to play with other puppies. They come in and just have a ball.”
A few weeks ago, Grace Townsend, who lives in Jersey City with her boyfriend and their 7-month-old Portuguese water dog, Cheerio, went to a friend’s birthday party in Hoboken. They left Cheerio behind in her crate and spent most of the time worrying if she was ok. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, the cake is still not out, should I leave?’ I feel guilty,” said Ms. Townsend, an executive assistant for Harry’s, a shaving brand. “You come home and of course she’s totally fine.”