Health, safety, & socialization during COVID-19 with Avidog

Watch our Good Breeder Webinar we recorded with Dr. Gayle Watkins and Dr. Chris Zink to get answers about health, safety, and socialization during COVID-19

by Cat Matloub, Esq. - Head of Partnerships, Community & Legal Affairs at Good Dog

Watch our webinar with Dr. Gayle Watkins and Dr. Chris Zink!

Note: This webinar was recorded in March - some information regarding COVID-19 has developed and changed since then. Please visit the CDC's website for the latest information on the virus.

Hear an amazing conversation with Dr. Chris Zink, DVM, 2009 Female Veterinarian of the Year, and Dr. Gayle Watkins, PhD with Avidog! Check out this recording to find out what you need to know as a dog breeder in the age of coronavirus.

Special Guests:

  • Dr. Chris Zink, DVM PhD DACVP DACVSMR CCRT CVSMT CVA, with Avidog and Canine Sports Productions
  • Dr. Gayle Watkins, PhD, founder of Avidog


Cat Matloub [00:17] Huge thank you to everyone for taking the time to join us. We are just over the moon to have such special guests with us today. Honestly, each of them—both Dr. Chris Zink and Dr. Gayle Watkins—has individually been such huge leaders in the dog world and have had such an extraordinary impact on canine health in so many ways. Obviously, their venture together with Avidog has just been an extraordinary contribution to education and health and us all having happy and healthy dogs.

To kick things off, Dr. Chris Zink, who needs no introduction. She has more degrees than I’ve ever seen listed after a name. I had to look up what all of them were. She is one of the world’s top canine sports medicine and rehab vets and researchers. She works as a pathologist and (timely) she has been working as a virologist at Johns Hopkins for 30 years, studying another viral epidemic, HIV and AIDS. She is also on the faculty at the Canine Rehab Institute and gives seminars. She was named Female Veterinarian of the Year, which is extraordinary, and she’s got so many accolades as well, from Dog Writers Association of America. Also, in her spare time, she casually achieved over 100 titles for agility, obedience, confirmation, tracking, hunt tests—you name it. We’re so privileged to have some of Chris’ time. We’re over the moon and so grateful.

And then Dr. Gayle Watkins: co-founder of Avidog with Chris and founder of Avidog Breeder University and Education University for Puppy Owners as well. No idea how she has managed to do all that she has in her life, but she has also bred Golden Retrievers for 40 years, is an AKC Gold Breeder of Merit, has been named Breeder of the Year by the AKC for 3 years. In that spare time, she has 22 years of service as a US Army Officer, and is retiring as a colonel. She’s bred or shown over 150 American/Canadian Champions.

Such amazing leaders in the dog world—we’re so lucky to have you at this time. To kick things off, for this webinar, we’re going to do general health and safety, given everything going on in the world around us. With Covid-19, how can we make sure we’re staying safe? That our dogs are staying safe? That our puppies are staying safe? That our puppy buyers are safe and happy? That our dogs are getting appropriate vet care? And then let’s dive into some really exciting material with Gayle and Chris on socialization and exercise; they’re obviously international leaders in this area. We’re thinking about how we can approach it now, in these times that we’re in. Please take it away, ladies!

Dr. Chris Zink [04:00] Well, I guess I’ll start. There’s no doubt that these are “interesting times.” There’s an old Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.” But we are doing exactly that. Usually, as breeders, we’re focusing on biosecurity efforts to protect our pups from viruses—just like we’re doing now—except things like parvovirus and distemper that are brought in by other people. While we still have to concern ourselves with that, we have a new concern because we’re trying to protect ourselves and other people, like our family members and anyone else that comes into our home or our breeding facility, from this new virus brought in from people. What I thought I would start with is by telling you a little bit about the virus and what we know—maybe even a little bit about what we don’t know—so we can better take care of ourselves. Then Gayle and I will alternate and both talk about some of the real details. So I’m going to give you an overview of the virus first.

Dogs, of course, as most of you know, have their own virus called canine coronavirus. It causes intestinal disease. (That’s usually mild.) There’s a vaccine for it, but I would guess that less than half of us vaccinate our dogs for that. Now, this new human coronavirus has come along, and it’s in the same family as the coronavirus, so there are some things that we can probably learn that are general to all of the coronaviruses. But these two viruses are unrelated to each other. That’s the first thing to note.

Our focus today is going to be on the SARS-CoV-2—this new human form of the virus. I’m going to talk to you a little bit about terminology, because we get it all mixed up, and it’s important to get that straight. The information we take in can be really, really important. I know there’s a lot of initials going around, but I just wanted to clarify: When we talk about this virus, for now, we should use the term “SARS-CoV-2.” I know that none of us are calling it that, but that’s its actual name. It might be its temporary name, but that’s the name it’s been given. Why was it given that name? It’s because this is the second coronavirus to cause Severe Accurate Respiratory Syndrome. SARS. You might have heard of SARS a few years ago, happening in the Far East. It’s the same disease, but a new virus strain causing it. When we talk about Covid-19, we’re actually talking about the disease itself. Covid stands for Corona (CO) Virus (VI) Disease (D), first diagnosed in 2019. So that’s why it’s called Covid-19. We want to be careful about this because the virus is what gets transmitted. The disease is what people get. We want to be sure to use the right terminology. Any time you see the letter D, you know we’re talking about the disease. That’s probably the easiest way to think about it.

So, what are some things we know about this new coronavirus? One thing is: we know that people can shed the virus before they show any signs of disease. That’s a little bit scary, because that makes it unknown for us. There’re a lot of unknowns. That’s why we’re told to stay 10 feet away from people. But here’s the important thing: here’s how it gets transmitted. The virus has to exit the body. It exists the body any time a person coughs, sneezes, or even speaks. If you’ve ever been in the sunshine when a person speaks, sometimes when they say letters like “p” and “b,” you can see spit comes out! I’m sorry to tell you, but that’s really the way it is. We actually want to stay far enough away, even from people that are speaking, because of the spit that comes out. When people transmit the virus—they send the virus out—the virus can’t go more than 10 feet. It probably can’t even go more than 6 feet. We’re doing 10 feet to be sure. Here’s the thing: when a person does that, if your dog is within 10 feet of them, they can actually spit the virus onto your dog. Your dog comes running over to you, and then you can get it from the dog. Actually, anything that a person touches—see, I just touched my mouth! I can’t believe it. We have to be very careful about these things. Let’s say a person spits onto their hand, or they touch their mouth with their hand, they touch a hand railing, they touch a doorknob, they touch your dog. All of those things can then transmit the virus to you. You touch those things, and then you place your hand near your mouth, and that’s how it gets transmitted person to person. So, actually, your dog can be a little bit of a risk of transmitting the virus to you. One of the things you don’t want to do is have your dog within 10 feet of people, as well as yourself. That’s really important, because your dog gets spit on or coughed on, and you touch them, now it can be transmitted.

Let’s talk about what can happen if you have to visit your veterinarian. Veterinary practices are considered essential businesses everywhere, so veterinarians need to protect themselves and their staff so that they can continue to operate, to help you and your dogs. If you need to go to your veterinarian, you’re going to be asked to stay in your car, and a veterinary nurse or technician (nurse is the new way we’re going to be talking about them, because they’re equivalent to human nurses in the hospital) will come out to your car. They will get your dog or your puppy. When they come to your car, you should open your car door, so they don’t have to touch your car door. You open your car door, and they will take your dog out of the car safely. They’ll bring your dog into the clinic, and they will do whatever they need to do, whether it’s vaccinating your puppies or some other kind of treatment. Then they’ll bring the dog back out. You’ll pay your bill online via your cell phone. I actually had to do this yesterday. It was easy-peasy. But, Gayle put out a great blog on this topic, and she gave lots of really cool details on how you can make this a better experience for your dogs and for you. Gayle, why don’t you take over here and talk a little bit about some of the ways that people can make this a better experience.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [11:14] One of the things that I’m most concerned about is making sure our dogs and puppies like the vet, even after this is over with. In many cases, with our puppies, these early weeks and months are very important to setting the stage for them enjoying their vet for a lifetime. So we want to find a way to make sure that they’re okay when we have to pass them off, often to a stranger, especially with our puppies. They’re not likely going to know the veterinarian. They’re going to be in there by themselves. They’re going to be handled in ways that veterinarians and veterinary nurses do.

So the things that are very important to me: First, as Chris said, they’re going to come and take your animal from you. Small crates, or leashes and collars are essential. Don’t show up without any kind of gear for your dog. They may swap it out to a kennel lead, which are the simple leads that tighten, so they don’t have to touch your leash. They want to make sure that there is some control on your dogs. Obviously, don’t put leashes on a litter of 6-week-old puppies. There, they need to be crated in some way.

Second is (we also just did this two days ago, because we’ve got an injured dog) lots and lots of really delicious treats. (We use the little frozen meatballs.) That gets passed with a disinfecting wipe to the vet nurse so when they go in, they can feed your dog and reward your dog and your puppies.

Finally, I just made sure that we had a conversation with that nurse, saying that we really want this to be a positive experience, so if they would just talk kindly and things like that, really do some tricks and have fun with the dogs.

The thing that we can do at home is prepare the dog for being handled by the veterinarian and the nurse. One of the holds that many veterinarians use is a neck hold, to make sure that all the people are safe. You can prepare your dogs for that now. Put them on a counter or a table, do it on the floor. Take their neck in your arm and give them treats. I think that’s it, Chris. Just a couple of hints!

Dr. Chris Zink [13:41] I see there’s a couple of questions that I would like to answer in the chat. One person asks: Are most colds and flu viruses a strain of the coronavirus? Actually, that’s a really good question. It’s not the most common virus that you can get with a cold, but there is a coronavirus that is one of the 14 or 20-something viruses that cause the common cold, a milder strain of coronavirus. They’re mostly other viruses. The other question is: Does the coronavirus vaccine prevent or lessen kennel cough? I would say the answer to that one is a definitive no.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [14:21] It is no. It has no relationship.

Cat Matloub [14:23] Chris, I have a question actually. We were discussing the fact that, obviously, a dog’s fur is a surface, and we know that the virus can live on a surface. So, there’s the need to be cognizant of that and socially distance the dog as well. We were having some interesting conversations around the likelihood of that happening, or the decreased likelihood of that happening, when you’re talking about a fur or a soft material versus something smooth. Judi actually shared that, as of right now, there’s not been a case where they’ve identified that the transfer has come from a dog. Again, not to say that that isn’t a possibility, but we’re curious: Is that fair to say? That we should be more mindful and careful with smooth surfaces? And for the dogs, we’re still trying to figure out if that will actually happen?

Dr. Chris Zink [15:18] Yeah, I think we need to treat a dog as any other object that could transmit. They’ve done tests where they’ve shown that the virus stays for a very short time on cardboard and a much longer time on smoother surfaces like steel. A dog is probably more like cardboard, in terms of their coat. But still, I think we should assume that they can transmit it for a few hours.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [15:50] There’s a question on what to do if one of the techs or your vet happens to be carrying the virus. When you bring your dog home from a vet visit, bathe them. Immediately.

Cat Matloub [16:03] Someone asked: What could we be wiping the puppies with?

Dr. Gayle Watkins [16:09] Nothing. None of the disinfectants, even the ones that I’m going to talk about a little later, are safe to put physically on our dogs. The biggest challenge isn’t so much the coat. Most of our dogs have enough coat that if we put disinfectant on them, it’s not going to get to their skin. But if they should lick it, there really are no disinfectants that are effective against coronavirus that an animal should be ingesting. Shampoo is your best bet. Hot water and shampoo. This virus is sensitive to heat, so we want to use—not enough to burn the dog—but a warm bath with shampoo. The shampoo, the detergent, removes the virus. It doesn’t kill the virus, but it removes the virus. So use gloves and bathe your dog.

Dr. Chris Zink [17:04] Someone else asked about how the current virus compares to coronavirus on farms. Pretty well. They’re in the same family, but they’re not related at all. So, probably we can’t expect to have any cross-protection. If an animal’s been exposed to the coronavirus of another kind or if we have been exposed, probably there is no cross-protection there. But, by the same token, the coronavirus on farms isn’t going to do what the current coronavirus does to us.

I have read recently that essential oils may not be particularly safe for dogs. I’m actually very cautious now about using them. I went to an Airbnb a few weeks ago. When I arrived, they had essential oils blowing into the room, and I quickly ran over and shut it off and gave it some time before my dogs entered the room. I’m a little bit cautious about that, and I think that information is still evolving. I wouldn’t use that either.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [18:08] Peggy’s asking about Chinese Cresteds and other hairless dogs. Bathe them! I’m personally not wiping my dogs down with any of the disinfectants because anything that works on coronavirus should not be ingested. Just bathe your Chinese Cresteds along with your other dogs.

Cat Matloub [18:27] Two questions relating to if the dog has had either a C-section or another surgery and can’t be bathed: Would you use a damp towel and soap? What would be the advice there?

Dr. Chris Zink [18:41] I’ll tell you what I would do. I would take a piece of sticky-tape and I would tape over their incision, and then I would bathe them and very carefully take the tape off the incision.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [18:58] I’d bathe as much of them as I can, just like Chris.

Dr. Chris Zink [19:04] Gayle, why don’t you answer Jerry’s question about considering doing a breeding in late April?

Dr. Gayle Watkins [19:10] That actually was a question I was going to address, which is the number one question I’m getting from people right now: whether they should breed or not. I think there isn’t a right or wrong answer right now. The demands for dogs and puppies has definitely increased since the virus hit. I know the Northeast US has always struggled to have enough dogs and puppies to meet the demand, and now they’re pretty much empty. Because people are either fostering, adopting, or purchasing puppies. I know most of the breeders that I’m in contact with are getting more calls. So, the need and the demand is there. We all know that because we love dogs in our lives. We know how much they’re helping us get through this. But I think there are two primary issues, aside from if you can get the breeding done.

Right now, collecting semen, shipping semen (unless it’s in a freezing center)—that’s likely going to be very difficult for a while due to getting collections done, unless you’re doing the collections yourself. Many, many vets are stopping doing reproduction. They are lessening reproduction work that they are doing. That’s something to keep in mind. We don’t know how much FedEx is going to be able to guarantee the timely shipping of that semen. Certainly, naturals are a possibility. You can do naturals if you’ve got the two dogs with you. That’s your best bet. But if you’ve got a local stud dog, and you are not under a lockdown or required stay-at-home (don’t violate the law, obviously; breeding dogs is not considered an essential activity so we can’t go out there and claim that)—if it’s possible to get it done legally and safely—the other two issues I think everybody has to address, and they have to think hard about it, is: Can you get your bitch and your pups the vet care they need? In particular, C-sections in case of an emergency. You need to know that you have the ability to do a section on your bitch if there is an emergency. We have to ensure that we are not putting our bitches’ lives at risk during this, if we’re going to do a breeding.

So, what does that mean? It means you have to have a conversation with your primary vet, but you also need a back-up vet in case your vet falls ill or is exposed to the virus. And you need to have a conversation with an emergency room vet, assuming that your vet does not provide 24/7 service. You have to speak to 3 vets to make sure that you have the ability to get a C-section done. Obviously, with neonates, consider if you need some sort of care for your puppies. Although often that’s less of an emergency.

Second, are you going to be able to get your puppies to their new homes? Will those new homes be able to raise them, socialize them, house train them, if by chance they are under lockdown? We’re going to talk about socialization a little bit later, and there’s a lot of socialization we can do. But we want to make sure that the homes that we’re sending these puppies to are able to do it. So, transportation and their ability to manage their puppy are your two questions.

Dr. Chris Zink [22:44] Someone asked about whether or not coronavirus is an envelope virus. There are two basic categories of virus: the ones that have a cell membrane around them and the ones that don’t. Luckily, coronavirus has a cell membrane around it, which makes it more susceptible to being killed by all of the disinfectants that we use. That’s really, really good news.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [23:06] Do you want me to go into that for a little bit, Chris? About the disinfectants?

Dr. Chris Zink [23:08] Yeah, I do.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [23:09] So, parvovirus is a non-envelope virus and thus is much more difficult to kill. One of the benefits we have as dog breeders is most of us focus pretty heavily on biosecurity. That’s part of our lives. Disinfecting well, having people wash their hands, things along those lines. Keep doing all of those things that you normally do! Some of the disinfectants that dog breeders use have been shown to be effective on this specific coronavirus. I think that’s really important. I am going to put the EPA list in the chat right now. You should keep track of that EPA list of disinfectants because as new disinfectants are tested, we’ll have access to more.

What are the safest disinfectants right now that we know work on the coronavirus as well as parvo? That’s the activated hydrogen peroxide products. What’s beneficial about them is they have minimal drying time and they don’t need to be rinsed. Two of those that many breeders use are Virox’s Accel TB, also known as Rescue, and Clorox hydrogen peroxide disinfectant, which we often see as wipes. Neither of those is easily available to us right now, but you can go on Amazon or Revival Animal Health, put in your email address, and they’ll inform you when they are back in stock. I know that breeders in my community are helping each other out by passing shipping products to each other, if somebody has a litter upcoming and simply can’t get disinfectants. You can also use household bleach. I know many breeders have done this for years. Just be sure to rinse well and make sure that your dogs’ skin and nasal passages don’t come in contact with it.

Dr. Chris Zink [25:12] Tell them how much to dilute it, because it comes in several concentrations.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [25:15] If you take regular Clorox bleach, you’re going to do five tablespoons, or a third of a cup, in a gallon of water. That’s if you’re making gallons. If you’re doing it in a spray bottle, you want to use four teaspoons of bleach in a quart of water. I’ll give all of this information to Cat so she can put it up.

I don’t, and never have, recommended Qatar ammonia, but some of them are effective against this coronavirus. Check the EPA list. Another benefit is because this virus is sensitive to heat, if you use steamers (I use a steamer on my puppies’ equipment and on my floors), it most likely (it has not been shown) will be beneficial against this virus.

What isn’t going to be effective? Distilled vinegar or any of the other natural products. If that’s what you’re using right now, you should upgrade, at least for the time being. Distilled vinegar is a fabulous product. It kills an awful lot of things, but it should not be used against coronavirus.

Dr. Chris Zink [26:47] This is a really important question about how to pass the puppies onto their new homes. Generally, people spend a lot of time, face to face, talking to the new person. How’s this going to work?

Dr. Gayle Watkins [27:00] That’s a great question, Chris. I did a webinar probably last year about how to do online webinars and transfers to owners. I’m happy to give access to the Good Dog breeders. Cat, if you’re interested in that. It’s an hour-long webinar on what programs you can use, what are available for free, how do you set it up. I think my last send-off webinar is in there for my owners.

Cat Matloub [27:32] That sounds absolutely fantastic. Just so everybody knows, we’re working on getting safety guides up for breeders and their puppy buyers, so Gayle and Chris, I was planning to send you a draft later today to take a look at it. We’re going to share it with a couple of other vets as well. But that webinar would be absolutely amazing to add to the material. And just so everybody knows also: In terms of questions that are being asked in chat, or things that are being referenced, we will absolutely follow up with an email to all of the folks on this webinar. We’ll get you that information if we don’t get to your question, or if you miss something. Don’t think we’re ignoring you!

Dr. Gayle Watkins [28:20] I want to clarify something. Victoria asked: Is peroxide suitable for use against this virus? The peroxide that you buy over the counter in a pharmacy is not effective. What is effective is what’s known as activated hydrogen peroxide, which is a medical-grade hydrogen peroxide. It’s effective against parvovirus, it’s effective against almost every virus. It is hospital-grade or medical-grade. That is what Accel is.

Dr. Chris Zink [28:56] You should also be aware that it’s activated only for a certain period of time. Once you open the bottle, it’s about 30 days that you have to use it. The other thing is: it’s also light sensitive. That’s why it’s sold in a brown bottle, or a dark bottle.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [29:12] Let me hit one more thing about vet care right now. That’s vaccinations and deworming and things like that. A lot of times we depend upon our vet for that. Your vet may or may not be able to provide that to you at the moment. I apologize for those in the UK and Europe and I think Canada—you can’t give your own vaccinations. But in the United States, we are able to give our own vaccinations to our puppies. This may be a time for you to learn how to do it. You can buy those vaccines. I buy all of mine from Revival Animal Health, who I’ve mentioned before. I find them to be a very, very reputable company. They ship vaccines very carefully. However, we don’t know the delays that are going to happen in shipping. So, if those vaccines arrive, they always ship them in a box and they always ship them with ice. They have a very good track record. But if you get your vaccines and they are not cold, do not use them! Contact Revival. They will replace them. It’s very important that vaccines be handled the proper way. On Revival’s site, they have videos on how to give vaccinations. These are not intramuscular vaccinations. They are relatively easy to use, if you do it thoughtfully and watch the videos.

Cat Matloub [30:52] This is why Gayle told me I need a cohost. This is what happens when I’m alone in my apartment without tech support.

Dr. Chris Zink [31:03] What happened?

Cat Matloub [31:05] It’s avoidable and wasn’t my fault! Someone tried to use our Zoom thing to start another meeting.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [31:15] You can’t lock them out. They do get asked!

Cat Matloub [31:25] It looks like they’re all joining you guys. I’m so, so sorry about that.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [31:28] Where was I?

Dr. Chris Zink [31:32] Why don’t we wait till more people get back on? Or, this is being recorded…

Dr. Gayle Watkins [31:39] If you do nomographs, vaccine nomographs, to determine your vaccine schedules, Dr. Laurie Larson at CAVIDS at the University of Wisconsin does have permission from the university to continue to go into her lab to run these nomographs. She can only do it twice a week, so it’s not going to be the week-long turnaround that we’re all accustomed to. It’ll probably take 1-2 weeks, and deliveries aren’t regular, so when you send the serum, make sure you include an ice pack and you do tracking. I think that’s all I have on vaccines.

Dr. Chris Zink [32:15] I put in a link, because several people had questions on if this product or that product kills coronavirus. I’m going to post on the chat the FDA list of things that kill the coronavirus.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [32:34] I think I did one too. I did the EPA one.

Dr. Chris Zink [32:39] Maybe it was the EPA one. I’ll put it up again anyway.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [32:43] We’ll definitely give that to Cat. That is a changing list right now, as more products are tested, so go back and check it regularly.

Dr. Chris Zink [32:57] Gayle, someone wants you to explain nomographs.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [33:00] Oh goodness! I’m going to give you a very quick summary, and then there’s a free book on our website that tells you all about it that I wrote with Dr. Larson. Nomographs are a way to test the bitches’ blood, either prior to the litter being born or after the litter being born. That tells you how normal, healthy puppies should be vaccinated. That tells you either how long their maternal antibodies are going to last or how short their maternal antibodies are going to last. That’s a quick summary. It’s a wonderful way to protect your puppies. It’s a pretty cheap date. It’s $44 to the University of Wisconsin. I’ll have Cat put a link to the nomograh book on the website so you can get that.

Dr. Chris Zink [33:57] Gayle, we got broken up right when you were talking about worming, so could you repeat what you were saying at that time?

Dr. Gayle Watkins [34:06] Right, so with deworming now, my recommendation is: rather than take repeated fecals into your vet, this would be a time to follow a regular deworming schedule, depending upon whether you have had coccidia in the past. If you’ve had coccidia in the past, treat for coccidia. And in particular, treat early, prior to 14 days, because it’s going to be pretty hard to have a neonate puppy that’s really struggling at the moment. It’s going to be difficult to get that puppy the vet care you need. Then you’re going to use Fenbendazole, SafeGuard, whatever you normally use. Either 3, 5, 7; 2, 4, 6. I would take one fecal in before you send your puppies in. Take it in a plastic bag. The vet can disinfect it. They can check to see whether your puppies are negative prior to you sending them home. This is not a time to be taking repeated fecals into the vet.

Dr. Chris Zink [35:14] So Gayle, how do you socialize your baby puppies to people in this time? What’s the best thing to do?

Dr. Gayle Watkins [35:20] This is our biggest challenge at the moment. Typically, we are telling our buyers to—and we ourselves are trying to—bring in people to help introduce our puppies to all different kinds of people. Knowing that during those first 16 weeks, it’s important for puppies to meet people that look different, people that smell different. I’d like to take us back to why we do that and what the real goal we have in our socialization is. That’s trust. What all of these things we do with our puppies is teaching them to trust four things: trust people (especially their own people and that’s you, your family, and those that care for them like vets and groomers; it’s less trusting strangers as it is trusting the people that they interact with daily), trust their environment (that the really loud things, weird noises, and shapes aren’t going to hurt them), trust our expectations of them (that typically isn’t what a breeder does, except with the dogs that she keeps; it’s usually owners that set expectations, like housetraining and obedience); and then trust in themselves for making decisions. If you focus on trust, you can do a couple of things. One: you and your family (or as many people that you think are safe, which could be your tenants or family members that are living with you) need to interact with the puppies in as many places as possible. This is the time, if you raise your puppies in a whelping box, to start letting them explore other parts of the house with those individuals.

If you breed alone, you’re just going to have to adapt as much as possible. Some of the things you can do is change what you and your family look like. Get on Amazon. Make it up as you go along. Masks, wigs, mustaches, umbrellas, funny coats.

Dr. Chris Zink [37:34] Halloween costumes are really cheap right now!

Dr. Gayle Watkins [37:36] Halloween costumes are extremely cheap! Now’s the time! Get those horrible-looking masks. Now is the time to make people different. Do it in different places, not just the puppy pen. We can’t change our base odor, but we can change how we smell with perfume, which I’m not a big fan of, but it does help. Or this is a time where you can do essential oils, where you just change the way you smell a little. You’re going to make a many challenging and stimulating experiences and opportunities as home—your yard, your house, your apartment.

Dr. Chris Zink [38:15] And your garbage cans. That’s a really big one for young puppies.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [38:19] That’s a great one to do. Put your couch cushions on the ground and let them climb over them. We do a lot of this once we start weaning them. So, we’ve introduced solid food to them, and we begin to call them or have them eat in different parts of the house. So, they eat in the shower stall, they eat in the bathtub, they have to come into the kitchen to eat. I might put things (like the couch cushions) in the hallway, so to get to their food, they have to go up and over. Many of us are not locked down but are at stay-at-home and can go out in the woods, the fields, places like that. This is a time to do adventure walks with your litters. I actually just did a webinar on adventure walks and how to do them with your litters. It is not published yet, but I’ll have Cat let you know when it is.

If you can drive, take your puppies off of your property. If you’re still allowed to be on the roads, get them off of your property. Puppies, towards the end of the sensitive period, begin to get location-sensitive. They get attached to a place. That’s why puppies begin to defend their property as they hit 6 months. That attachment all happens from about 9 weeks on. They have to learn to do things someplace else. Take them to safe places, 10 feet away from people. Put them in a pen in a parking lot. Take them near your fire station. I hate to say it, but take it near your hospital. Because hospitals are pretty busy right now. Get your puppies out. Put them in a stroller and stroll them around. They have to get off of your property at this point, if they’re going to adapt well.

Finally, make sure you are handling each of your puppies the whole time they’re with you. But they are going to get less handling, most likely, than normal puppies would. You’re going to emphasize grooming and exams and that neck hold (Chris can probably do it better than I can) that veterinarians use. Where’s Helix? Chris will show you.

Dr. Chris Zink [40:33] Look at this.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [40:35] You want to practice that specific thing with your puppies. You can see Helix licking his lips. It’s a little stressful, even for a really handled dog. You’re going to do that hold on your puppies, let them nurse on their mom, do that hold on your puppies, give them a treat. That and grooming and all kinds of examinations. Look in their mouths, look in their ears—all the things that your vets do, you’re going to have to take on now.

Joyce is talking about YouTube. You can do YouTube and Alexa—they have all kinds of sounds now. You can play trains, and you can play traffic, and you can play city streets and fireworks. All of those things. I’m assuming most of you do that regularly. Continue to do it. And just a tip: you have to move that sound around. It can’t always come from the same place, because puppies don’t generalize well. They’ll just think that all the thunderstorms are from the right-hand side of the room by the window, when in reality, you want to move it around every now and then.

Cat Matloub [41:50] Gayle, you just activated someone’s Alexa speaker!

Dr. Gayle Watkins [41:51] Really?! Do you want me to order something for you?

Cat Matloub [42:03] Quick question from someone with respect to adventure walks. What’s your best advice to protect dogs and puppies from Lyme disease?

Dr. Gayle Watkins [42:11] Ticks, ticks, ticks. I don’t have a perfect solution, having come from New York State in the county that had the highest Lyme rate in the country. Puppies starting at 7 weeks of age can get spot-on tick protection. I had a lot of good luck with K9 Advantix and Seresto collars in New York, but I was breeding with friends on Long Island and Advantix didn’t work for them. They were using Bravecto. I know Bravecto, NexGard, and Simparica all have possible seizures, but ticks are so bad in some areas that you have to try different products until you find the ones that work for your dogs and, unfortunately, your ticks because we’re kind of in a battle with the ticks.

Dr. Chris Zink [43:03] So someone asked about having the owner send a small baby blanket or a T-shirt or something for smells, if you set it long enough to be non-contagious. I would say put it in the sunshine. Put it in the sunshine for a few hours, it’ll be fine.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [43:19] I agree, and then don’t forget to send one home, same thing. So, scent yours with your dame’s smell and your smell. Put it out in the sun. Send it home with the puppies.

Dr. Chris Zink [43:46] April, you’re in Alaska, you’re still in winter. You can still put the blanket out. You have sunshine up there. I’ve been in Alaska numerous times. You got great sun up there, when you have it! You’ll have a few hours of it. The sun’s just as good in cold weather.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [44:01] Yeah, and the sun does help an awful lot.

Dr. Chris Zink [44:04] It’s one of the best disinfectants.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [44:09] So that was what I had, Cat.

Dr. Chris Zink [44:14] Can I talk a little bit about exercising?

Dr. Gayle Watkins [44:21] Absolutely! Let’s keep them sane!

Dr. Chris Zink [44:24] I think dogs can go stir crazy, too. If everything’s always the same in their life, things get kind of boring and they get a little bit depressed. We want to make sure that we give our adult dogs what they need, too. One of the most important things that you can give an adult dog is exercise. Exercise has two really important benefits. They are absolutely proven by science. One is, of course, it keeps the animal fit and that’s really important for their ability to breed in the future—even for your pregnant dogs, to be able to have better whelping success, and for your stud dogs to be able to do what they need to do. Fitness is really important, for your bitches to be able to recover after they’ve had their puppies that have gone home, etc. Fitness is really critically. The other effect of exercise is we know that it really feeds into mental attitude. What is one of the most important things that people can do if they’re depressed? Exercise. Much as you may not feel like it at the time. The fact is that dogs are exactly the same. Their brains work pretty much the same way that our brains work.

How can you make this happen? The best thing that you can do is to get your dog outside. If you know of places where you can go with your dog and still stay 10 feet away from other people and other dogs, do make this a part of your daily routine if it’s in any way possible. Once you do that, you have to be conscious about the things that you’re touching. You know that you always have to think about what you’re touching with your hands. Touch a few foreign things as possible. But what if, for example, you’re in New York City and you live in a walk-up. Maybe you’ve got bad knees or something. You know you’ve got to hold onto the handrail, and at the bottom of the steps is going to be this doorknob that everybody and their brother has touched. Bring a stack of paper towels with you or if you have disposable wipes, that’s even better. You hold onto the handle, the doorknob, and then you dispose of it immediately. And then you have much more with you, for anything that you need to touch. I’ve seen people wearing disposable gloves, and they put them on when they go out and they take them off when they come home, but if you’re going to do that, don’t touch your dog. Don’t touch your dog’s equipment either. Because you’re still going to be transferring stuff. I actually don’t like that approach very much. I think it gives us a false sense of security. I’ve never realized how many things I touch in my life. It’s a lot of things that you touch with your hands, so be aware of that. Things like: the trashcan lid when you go to dumb the poop bag, or all those things that you could be handling. Be really conscious of what you’re doing. But at the same time, try to get your dog out if it’s at all possible. Wash your hands before you go out, and wash your hands as soon as you get in. And wipe down the doorknob that you held to get in the house and try to go straight to the sink and wipe down the soap container that you held if you held it. There’s a really funny video going around Facebook right now, of this guy that keeps touching things and then wiping them and then touching another thing and wiping that. He finally collapses in the bathroom. We don’t have to get quite to that situation.

The other thing you can do is you can exercise your dog in the home. That’s actually almost as good. If you can’t get your dog outside and you know you still need to keep them mentally fit, I’ve got to tell you that Gayle and I have an online course called Fit to Be Tied. It has dozens of fun exercises you can do with your breeding stock. (It’s really important for your breeding stock to keep them fit for your outcomes.) But we also have exercises for puppies and for your older dogs that are at home, to keep them healthy and happy. We give you new exercises every month. We walk you through how and when to do them. We give you lots of online personal guidance, so if you’re interested, Gayle will probably put up the website for learning about that.

Cat Matloub [48:48] Just to toot their horn for them, those videos—Fit For Life—also won the American Dog Writers Association Award, so they’re fantastic. They’re really an awesome resource.

Dr. Chris Zink [49:00] It’s so, so critical for us to pay individual attention to each one of our dogs every day. Not to just let them be hanging out with the rest of the dogs, but individual attention, even if that just comes down to teaching them a little exercise. It can be just amazing for your dogs. It has a multitude of scientifically proven benefits. I just wanted to get a plug in for really paying attention to each individual dog and getting them outside if at all possible because of the incredible effects on the brain it has for dogs to exercise.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [49:45] There, I got the link. If you’re interested in Fit to Be Tied, there you go!

I saw a couple of posts that training is also a good fitness activity for your dog. It’s a mental activity for your dog, but regular training (obedience training and even scent-work training) isn’t going to keep your dog fit if these lockdowns go on for a long period. We highly recommend specific physical activities, so you tire your dog out. It doesn’t take long: 10, 12, 15 minutes a couple of times a week. It doesn’t take a huge commitment to be able to do that.

Cat Matloub [50:37] Fantastic.

Dr. Chris Zink [50:41] You guys have some really great suggestions, too. One person mentioned that she has a barrier blanket in her car that goes straight into the wash as soon as she gets home. Be sure and read the chat, because everybody’s giving some great ideas, too.

Cat Matloub [50:56] After this, when we send around a follow-up, we’ll also comb through and share some of those ideas and share the links, so everybody has access to that stuff as well.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [51:09] Kimberly’s asking about puppy school, which I’m assuming is puppy kindergarten or some sort of training—absolutely. I always recommend it. But in many places, they are closed down right now. In my town, all training centers are close down—New York, New Jersey. So it’s really going to depend upon where you live. Please be really careful when you go, because obviously you’re going to be around people. Typically, in puppy class, other people are touching your dog. I would be very cautious. I personally am not recommending that to any of my puppy buyers now.

Dr. Chris Zink [51:49] And I meant to mention that also about dog parks. I would stay away. It’s just too much of a congregation of dogs and people to be safe at this time. I suppose you could go at the crack of dawn when no one’s there, if that’s your only way to exercise your dog. That’s probably fine because everything has gotten sterilized overnight in the outdoors. Barring that, I probably would avoid dog parks.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [52:22] Jen mentions having a backup for your dog’s care if you live alone. I personally think that’s always important because all of us get on the roads, and a lot more people die on the roads right now than from coronavirus. We should always have a backup plan. I actually have a notebook that sits next to my dog’s food that gives care instructions for anybody who walks in: how to identify the dogs, what they eat, who the vets are, and I have a list of points of contact. So, if by chance, something happens to me and someone comes to the house, they can figure out who to call as well as how to take care of the dogs in the meantime. I’m happy to give you what I have in there, Cat, if that’s helpful to people. Whether you’re a pet owner, if you have cats—it doesn’t matter—we all need to have a backup for our pets.

Cat Matloub [53:25] We’ve got that flagged for you in our article. We were thinking about it with respect to the current situation, and you’re absolutely right. It might need to be modified, given the current situation, but you’re right: it should be there anyway.

Dr. Chris Zink [53:41] Especially for those of us that are single. I have an envelope on my mantelpiece that says: in case I die. Sometimes people come over and they’re creeped out. How’s everybody going to know what to do? It’s updated frequently.

Cat Matloub [54:00] Chris, now you could just send a photo of that to someone and not have it as a centerpiece on your mantel. But it’s a good reminder to have your affairs in order!

Dr. Gayle Watkins [54:15] Somebody asked about Puppy Potty Training Solution, if I can give a plug for that. I have a course called Puppy Potty Training Solution that is usually a crate-training and housetraining course for new puppy owners. Given the situation with coronavirus, we have expanded it. There are live calls every week. If you have the book, all that is about potty training. But the live calls are for all puppy challenges: chewing, jumping, nipping, all of the things that new owners face. If you want to recommend that to your buyers, I would appreciate it. It’s offering live calls with dog trainers once a week, plus all of the information on crate and potty training.

Dr. Chris Zink [55:12] Someone else asked a question about whether the OneMind Dog puppy online training program is the same as Fit for Life, and I would say no. They’re very, very different. The OneMind Dog’s is all the basic puppy things that puppies need to be good citizens, but what we’re doing in Fit for Life is actually providing them with scientifically based exercises that will build their neurological system and set them up for a life of health. It’s very age-specific. We have very specific guidelines for puppies of a variety of different ages, as they go from as young as 3 weeks of age all the way up to adulthood. It’s quite different, actually. It’s scientifically based, neurologically based strengthening. The other thing that’s different about ours is you get online access to Gayle and myself on a monthly basis to ask your own questions, and to a Facebook page to ask questions, which we monitor every day.

Cat Matloub [56:24] Awesome! And then, Cindy, I see your question about transportation, which leads into the wrap-up. We don’t know how things are going to pan out, the timing, what the future holds. This is the first webinar. We plan to hold weekly ones to try to figure out the very many questions that we’re all tackling together right now. It’s going to be open to all dog breeders, whether or not they’re on Good Dog. I’ll just speak briefly about the 3 big areas that we’re really working hard to provide support for. Questions around vet care and vaccinations, a lot of the stuff that we covered today. But then also, we’re talking to some vets about telemedicine and what that looks like, and how we can help get breeders access to telemedicine. For instance, it has to be within the same state. Can we get our list of vets who are out there and are operating, how does telemedicine work, what can it be used for? We’re looking at waivers for some of the certificates. I know I saw a comment in there about Florida and a vet certificate. In some states where it’s more restricted, could there possibly be a situation where some vets take precautions and make home visits where they’re outside or what have you? Gayle’s shaking her head at me.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [58:06] I like that one, actually.

Cat Matloub [58:10] People are trapped at home. I talked to Dr. Brian Greenfield this morning about how their clinic is doing a lot. They’re open, but a lot of the smaller clinics that are closed—we can use that network to get access there. So I’d say vet care and vaccinations are ongoing, because there are the vaccinations before the puppies go home, but what about when the puppies go home? I’m thinking about the schedule that they’re going to need to be on as well. And we’re looking at this question, which is going to be continually evolving, on how to think about breeding decisions right now in terms of what the future holds. If your breed is one that requires C-sections, how to consider that. Everybody sort of has the same questions, and we’re continuing to get more insight. Hopefully, we can tackle these together.

The really big one, the one that we’ve been really focused on this week particularly, is transportation. Yes, there’s a Covid-19 pandemic, but there is also a loneliness epidemic and there are a lot of isolated people who are at home and really want puppies and are equipped to take care of them, who’ve already had puppies lined up that they are expecting to have. There’s such a huge opportunity there to help give companionship to people during this time. But for logistical issues of transportation! There’s obviously flying cargo. United stopped flying dogs cargo earlier this week, Delta is stopping on the 31st of this month, American is continuing to fly dogs cargo—

Dr. Chris Zink [1:00:00] No.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [1:00:00] They stopped today.

Cat Matloub [1:00:03] Well, there you go. That leads me to my next area, which is ground transportation. We’re really excited about the potential there, to allow the community to support each other. We circulated a form to the breeders in the Good Breeder community, and we’re also looking to expand that to others, to see if there are folks in the dog world who are able and willing to provide transportation. They do that all the time, so they’re used to it. They would be able to offer to do a leg for a breeder, to take that trip, so that the puppy can get to their new home. The person who drove them would get a fee, so they’ll be financially supported if they’re struggling during these times. Can we crowd source as a community and do this? We are still very much exploring. It’s the beginning of an idea, but we would love to continue the conversation with all of you to figure out if that’s something you’d be interested in. We’ll keep you posted as we launch that. We’re also offering manual, individual assistance. Our breeder team specialists are working around the clock, so if a breeder is in a dire situation where they’ve had buyers fall through because they’ve been far away and they couldn’t fly, you can email Good Dog. Email We’ll work with you, one on one, to see if we could potentially connect you with a buyer in your area.

Related to all of these things, this week we’ve been working on the safety guide that I was referencing to Gayle. A safety guide for you and all of your puppy buyers about all of these things. We’re really looking to get that out there. It’ll have things like: how can you have a safe transport, how can you have a safe drop-off. Keep that time shorter, obviously, but utilize something like the online training that Gayle put together. Normally, you spend two hours with your buyers. It’s going to be a real quick hand-off, but then you’re going to be able to have that time after the fact. We’re working on all of these things. We’ve been really inspired by how so many of the people in the dog world have come together and are supporting each other, sending each other supplies (we’re going to try to make that easier to do as well). We are just so much stronger together. Thank goodness, because it’s tough to figure out these challenges. But I’m excited. Let us know what topics are of interest to you. We’ll be having these weekly webinars. Maybe next week we’ll do transportation. Maybe the week after we’ll do one on telemedicine. Let us know what can be most helpful for you guys. You’ll all get an email from us, if not today, then tomorrow.

Dr. Chris Zink [1:03:21] I like all the ideas about contacting the Professional Handlers Association. These are people who really know how to deal with dogs.

Cat Matloub [1:03:26] Yes! That is what I was alluding to, when I said people are used to transporting dogs via vehicles.

Dr. Gayle Watkins [1:03:30] The PHA would be great, because they have the trucks and vans.

Dr. Chris Zink [1:03:37] I’ve been talking to my handler. I think they’d be really on board with this.

Cat Matloub [1:03:44] That’s really fantastic. This is what we were hearing. We were speaking to some people in the show world, and they were like, “Look, we are at home. We can’t be going to events, and we’re able to do this. So if we can make those connections, how amazing!” And to be doing so at this time, giving people companionship and happiness, could be really incredible. Let’s figure this out together.

Dr. Chris Zink [1:04:12] Gayle, can you tell everybody how they can join Good Dog? Someone else also asked about Good Dog in Canada, so tell us all about that, too!

Dr. Gayle Watkins [1:04:18] Cat, you want to do that?

Cat Matloub [1:04:22] Gayle’s been telling us since Day 1 that we need to be in Canada, so when Monica started on January 1st of this year, we were like, “Monica, you need to get into Canada.” She had a call with Canadian lawyers, and we’re working on it. But Monica has just been slacking left, right, and center.

Monica DeBosscher [1:04:41] This has really taken a turn.

Cat Matloub [1:04:45] We truly are pushing to get into Canada, and I think we will be able to. We know it’s a North American dog world, and we know there are amazing dog breeders in Canada that we want to be able to support. We’ll circulate how you can sign up for Good Dog. There’s no fee for breeders. You actually also can’t pay to be part of our community. You just have to pass our screening.

Dr. Chris Zink [1:05:22] They’re doing good work, you guys!

Cat Matloub [1:05:24] Jennifer, I will circulate the link to the recording of this webinar in the follow-up email, with a host of responses to chats and all of that. We’ll also post it on Facebook. Please, please feel free to share. We’re putting these on for everyone in the dog world, but obviously we’re really trying to support dog breeders. We hope to get this information out there to everybody because it’s so critical.

Dr. Chris Zink [1:05:55] Thanks for joining us everybody! Great questions, great participation and ideas that you all posted. It makes me feel really good to know that you’re out there, and we can all come together and make a difference.

Cat Matloub [1:06:11] Cheers to that! And thank you, everyone, and to Gayle and Chris—you guys are such inspirations to us. Even though we’ve been partnered with you, I’m still a fan girl of both of you. Thank you both so much. You’re amazing!

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