As I start to plan for how we could safely return to our in person dog training classes, as are many other businesses, I’m writing a risk assessment.
It will not be like it was until there is an effective vaccination, or (and if) we achieve “herd immunity” (at least 60% of the population has had it AND it provides LASTING immunity - we don’t know this yet).
So, what is the risk?
- That clients could have Covid 19 and pass it on by breathing out virus in their exhaled vapour, or touching surfaces in the venue.
- The people who do not yet know that they have contracted Covid 19 carry a higher viral load - this means that they are MORE contagious to others when they do not have symptoms yet.
- That a client’s dog might carry Covid 19 fomites on the fur and be touched by another person, who then touches their face (eyes, nose or mouth).
- That a client’s dog might carry Covid 19 fomites on the fur, touches another dog and passes these fomites on to the dog, who, in turn passes them onto someone who strokes the dog, and then touches their face, eyes, nose or mouth.
- That someone who previously used the facility did not clean up after them, or that someone with Covid 19 coughed in the venue earlier in the day leaving virus airborne for the next group using the hall.
- That a trainer could have Covid 19 and due to the lengthy amounts of time the trainer has to talk, in a confined space, increases viral load by exhaling virus in their breath vapour which passes around everyone in the hall.
- That people may not manage social distancing whilst waiting to enter or leave the hall
- That clients may struggle to prevent their dog from touching another dog or person in the hall and that this could facilitate the spread of Covid 19.
Take a few moments to think about this. Are you panicking yet? If not, you perhaps should be, because I am!
What measures can we implement to eradicate risk of spreading coronavirus during dog training classes?
How will I eliminate this risk?
The easiest way to eliminate risk is to run classes outdoors in a very large space. The following will eliminate risk:
- Clients must only leave cars when asked so they can enter the venue with good social distance.
- Clients must only return to cars when asked to ensure they can maintain social distancing.
- Dogs must not be allowed to touch each other.
- Humans must not be allowed to touch any one else’s dogs.
- Dog trainers must not touch humans or dogs.
- Social distancing of at least 2 metres must be maintained at all times (this is not enough by the way, so we will be saying 5 metres).
This is manageable, BUT!
Clients must be prepared to follow these rules. No dog to touch another dog or person. This is very hard. Large distances makes it easier. But most clients think socialisation is all about physical engagement between the dogs.
WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DO THIS! SOCIAL DISTANCING APPLIES TO DOGS AND PEOPLE FOR THE REASONS MENTIONED ABOVE.
Dogs cannot (currently) contract Covid 19, but they CAN facilitate its spread as described above.
So, no dog to dog socialisation will be possible or permitted (and if you don't agree, please don't come to us as we do not want to be responsible for spreading this disease). It may not actually be necessary as long as clients have been ensuring their puppy/dog has positive social exposure to other dogs and people from a safe distance. When a vaccine becomes available, it is thought they will be able to build on this with closer proximity to other dogs and we will be able to help you with this. But for now, WE WILL FOLLOW THE GUIDANCE TO KEEP YOU ALL, AND OUR STAFF, SAFE.
To mitigate risk (because I don’t think we can eliminate it, too much is out of our control in the indoors)
- All clients to wear face masks
- Clients and staff asked to take their temperature before leaving to attend class
- Staff to wear face masks (this might mean they need to use microphones to ensure everyone can hear)
- Staff to wash hands before each new class starts after cleaning all surfaces that could have been touched
- All dogs to be on a short lead only to ensure they cannot accidentally touch another dog
- Dog trainers will not be allowed to touch any dogs or their equipment etc
- Reduced class sizes to enable social distancing measures to be achieved
- Longer time between classes to clean surfaces and allow people to maintain social distancing on leaving and entering the halls. This means fewer classes can be run in a session.
- Staff to supervise exit and entry to hall to ensure people maintain social distancing of dogs and humans
- Anti viral gel on arrival and departure
- Provision of antiviral wipes in case a dog touches another dog or person
- Staff to clean all used surfaces BEFORE class starts (in case previous users don’t), between classes, and after classes (door handles, taps, doors, chair arms etc).
These procedures are likely to increase the cost of classes as less dogs can be trained and fewer classes can be run in the time slots available. Not to mention the additional costs of cleaning materials that destroy coronavirus, which are very expensive.
So, dog training will not be the same for a very long time. We will all be mourning the loss of elements of the job that we love so much ( a hug of a regular client who just achieved something special, the stroking and fussing of a dog etc ). These are difficult times for us. We want to bring you the dog training you know and love, but we can’t. The biggest thing we know that you want is to be able to physically socialise your dogs with dog to dog contact. We know this. We want you to be able to do this, but we cannot let you do this for your safety, the safety of the other clients and the safety of our staff. This might be the case for a long while.
We will continue to offer online live coached classes to those who do not like the risk, or cannot afford to take the risk due to shielding.