To put it mildly, this does in fact stink.
To best support you and your dogs during the evolving COVID-19 situation, we are rolling out some proactive policy changes, services, and resources that we will continue to adapt and update to keep pace with community safety. Read on to see what's changing and watch this space for updates …
COVID-19 has been classified as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and its impacts are being felt in communities across the world including here in the United States. Best practice recommendations for individuals include strict social distancing and increased sanitation protocols to help flatten the curve and prevent local health systems from being overwhelmed. It's important to us to be good citizens, supportive community members, and to engage in harm reduction. We want to keep you, ourselves, and the vulnerable members of our households safe. We also know from experience that being proactive rather than reactive allows for the most effective approach with the least negative cost.
We will be adapting our services and practices to keep pace with preserving public safety. Because government guidelines are inconsistent at the federal, state, and local levels, we are creating a new flexible services model that will adapt to changing conditions here in Austin by using the data we have available in conjuntion with guidance from health experts, taking into account what we know about how the virus spreads and all that we are still learning.
What's one great thing about this service level approach? It's flexible and responsive to the situation on the ground. If you book an in person or virtual session but conditions change in the time leading up to your appointment, we can simply switch the format (from virtual to in person or vice versa) as close as the day before your session!
As of 9.1.20 we are currently offering Level 2 Services thanks to the successful local drop in cases and hospitalizations. We will be keeping an eye on things like school reopenings and adjusting as needed.
Level 1 Services
Level 1 Services are in effect when the local rate of change is rising and local case saturation levels are moderate to high.
- Initial Remote Video Conferencing Consult - includes individual written training plan, $105/public, $80/shelter/rescue: A flexible, first private session with you and your dog focused on assessing and navigating individual needs, identifying goals, and laying out a plan to reach them. We are loving the remote training options and if you're not sure about jumping in, we genuinely encourage you to try it! This format still allows us to see your dogs in action, coach you in real time, model skills and behaviors with our own dogs (you get to virtually meet Socks, Monkey, Rosie, and Artie!), and still allows us to see one another face to face.
- Remote Video Conferencing Follow-Up - $80/public, $65/shelter/rescue: The same format as your initial remote consult to help troubleshoot and adapt your dog's training plan and practice skills you need more support with.
- Virtual Group Classes - $25: Join us via Zoom from the comfort of your home or yard and we'll get you and your dog(s) working, learning, and having fun! Topics include a rotating Skills & Games Series on Enrichment at Home, Connection, Communication, & Teamwork, Finding Zen, Shy Dog Skills, Reactive Dog Skills, Jumpy/Mouthy Dog Skills, and more!
- Rotating In-Depth Webinars - $45: These webinars will let us dive deeper on topics like canine communication, reactivity, fear, guarding, arousal issues, multi dog households, supporting dogs in shelters, and more!
- Rotating Blog Series Live Q&A - FREE: Join us via Zoom for a free Q&A series based on our educational blog posts!
- Shelter/Rescue Dog Field Trips - $60: These outings are the only exception for in person Level 1 Services to allow us to continue supporting this vulnerable population. We will continue shelter/rescue pick-ups from in shelter and in foster homes with limited, protected contact unless the situation becomes too severe.
Level 2 Services
Level 2 Services are in effect when the local rate of change is flattening and local case saturation levels are low. All of the above plus...
- Socially Distanced In-Person Follow-Ups - $90/public, $75/shelter/rescue: A private in person follow-up to help troubleshoot and adapt your dog's training plan and practice skills you need more support with.
- Protected Contact While You Were Out Visits - $65: Individualized attention for your dog while you’re busy at work or out of town. We’ll integrate enrichment and training/behavior modification goals in a way that’s tailored to your dog’s needs.
- Socially Distanced Skills & Games Class - $40: This is an adapted in-person version of our Monthly Skills & Games Class, designed to accommodate social distancing and allow for attendance by our mild-moderately reactive and braver shy dogs. Class will start with a working walk and end with a group station rotation with low pressure skill building games and activities. Groups are capped at 4 dogs to ensure each dog/handler team gets individual attention and support.
Level 3 Services
Level 3 Services are in effect when the local rate of change is declining for 3 or more weeks and local case saturation levels are low. All of the above plus..
- Socially Distanced Initial Individual Private Sessions - includes individual written training plan, $125/public, $90/shelter/rescue: A flexible, first private session with you and your dog focused on assessing and navigating individual needs, identifying goals, and laying out a plan to reach them.
- Socially Distanced Shared Buddy Sessions - $45/client: Pair up with another client pup working on their dog/dog skills to practice things like leash reactivity, appropriate greetings, and supported appropriate social interaction.
- Socially Distanced Just for Fun Skills & Games Class - $40: This is a special class series for our alumni to keep their skills fresh, get out and about working around people and other dogs, learn new things to try at home, and most importantly...to have fun!
- Socially Distanced Monthly Adventure Groups - $40: Join us for supported adventures around town with built in skill building activities, coaching & guidance throughout the outing, and plenty of fun & encouragement. Groups are capped at 4 dogs to ensure each dog/handler team gets individual attention and locations and activities are selected with our dog’ needs in mind. This is a recurring once a month event and each outing is booked separately. Groups include Leash Gremlins, Shy Dogs, & Rowdy Dogs.
In Person Appointment Protocol
- Appointments and hand-offs for field trip pick-ups will take place outdoors only. Please meet your trainer outside of your home or at an alternate prearranged outdoor location.
- Please maintain at least 6 feet of distance throughout the appointment. There may be moments where we briefly step closer to hand off the leash or model a behavior but we’ll then retreat back to an appropriate distance.
- Please wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose for the duration of the hand off or appointment.
- Please note that your trainer may not be able to wear a mask for some or all of the appointment. We will have masks with us but the majority of our cases are fear, aggression, and reactivity and even people social dogs are typically spooked by an unknown human meeting them for the first time with a mask on.
- If your appointment follows another in person appointment we will sanitize between. We ask that you please do the same.
- There are no exceptions to this protocol. If you are unable or unwilling to follow this protocol, please do not book in person services with us. If we arrive for an appointment and you are unwilling to follow the protocol, your appointment will be cancelled without refund.
- Please note that we are not doing initial appointments in person until we reach Level 3 Services guidelines. Your initial consult can be done via either FaceTime or Zoom so the social distancing, masks, and outdoor setting don’t impede us being able to clearly talk through issues and the plans/skills we’ll be using to address those issues.
How Can You Help?This will be a tough time for small businesses, vulnerable populations, healthcare professionals, and many others. We will reserve our advice for our little corner of the world and what we expect to be most helpful.
Support Small Businesses Like Ours
First and foremost, take advantage of the new remote services businesses are rolling out as we adapt to the evolving situation! If and only if (we know many of our colleagues and so many across other industries will also be taking a heavy financial hit) you have the financial means, consider taking some above and beyond steps to support local small businesses like trainers, pet sitters, dog walkers, and pet boarding facilities. The vast majority of us do not get paid if we do not work and are responsible for our own health insurance/care costs out of pocket. If you wish to cancel an appointment, consider doing so without accepting a refund. If you can afford to overpay, consider booking an additional service you don't intend to use or asking about the option to add X amount to your service fee. You can also write supportive reviews on social media, interact with social media posts, and help spread the word!
Support Your Community's Vulnerable Homeless Pet Population
This is obviously true year round but animal shelters, particularly open intake animal shelters, are being hit particularly hard by the impacts of COVID-19. Our city shelter, Austin Animal Center, is currently operating at restricted capacity and staffing levels which means staff are stretched thin to provide ongoing care and move animals out of the shelter through adapted protocols. Please consider bringing home a foster animal if you are able in order to help bring the shelter population down and preserve quality of life for homeless companion animals and safety for the humans who care for them. Maybe you're having to work remotely now anyway - fostering lets you support our community from the comfort of home! You can also donate to Friends of Austin Animal Center who are providing supplies, training, and beyond to foster animals and their caretakers. (PS. Wonderful, amazing Dog Possible clients - some of you cannot foster due to the needs of the animals in your homes and that is 100% okay!)
Keep Your Own Dogs (and those fosters!) Happy & Enriched
Again, this is true all the time. But in the current moment, we feel lucky to have companion animals at home for comfort and mutual enrichment as social opportunities contract. You can still walk your dog! You can spend time outdoors at a safe distance from others (ask our #teamleashgremlin pups how!). And you sure as heck can engage in enrichment activities. Now is the time to delve into ideas and have some fun with your dog:
It's also a bit of a wacky time for our dogs so we've got you covered with Preventing Behavior Issues During a Pandemic
General COVID-19 Info
COVID-19 and Companion Animals
*There is no evidence dogs can transmit COVID-19 to humans or become ill from the virus.
- COVID-19 and Pets
- COVID-19 Resources for Animal Shelters
- COVID-19 Guidance for Pet Care Professionals: Dog Trainers, Pet Sitters, Veterinarians
- Preventing Behavior Issues During a Pandemic