Socialising Your Pup During COVID-19

Socialising Your Pup During COVID-19

Even though you might be stuck at home, unable to get out and about to socialise and train your puppy in the conventional way, it’s still crucial for you to do as much as you can to socialise your puppy safely and positively – these are your pup’s ‘formative years’ so it’s essential that you help them to learn about the world, and train them to respond to your cues before they learn habits that you don’t like!

Here are some tips to help you to succeed in socialising and training your pup during this challenging time:

  • Carry your pup on a short walk down the street (if they are light enough!) so they can see the sights without risk of picking up contagious disease. If you have a buggy or bike trailer you can secure your pup in, use that instead to save your arms!
  • Take your pup in the car with you when you go to get shopping, so they can get used to car trips and watch the world through the car window. Secure them in a crate or use a boot divider to keep your car safe while you shop, and give them something to chew on while you are away, and don’t forget to have a window cracked enough for fresh air and park in the shade. This will give them crucial separation training, something which will otherwise be lacking while you are home all day.
  • Make sure you give your pup at least a few hours of alone time each day, in their crate, kennel or pen, in a quiet spare room, or in the yard. If they get very worried when left alone, start with only a minute or two and slowly build up how long they are alone for by a few minutes at a time. Make sure you give them chews, a yummy stuffed kong, or a scatter of treats each time you leave them, so they build good associations with being left alone. This is extremely important to do now, as your puppy will be very stressed if they do not know how to be left alone when you go back to full time work.
  • Make an ‘obstacle course’ in your yard of novel things for your puppy to explore and learn about. Include things like an open umbrella, a tricycle or bike, a vacuum cleaner, a dustbin, a statue, different surfaces to walk over like tinfoil or bubble wrap, a balance plank, etc. Guide your puppy through everything, giving them time to sniff and check things out, and give them lots of treats and praise, especially if they are a bit unsure.
  • Go on YouTube and search ‘puppy sound desensitisation’. There are lots of good soundtracks available with a variety of novel noises on them that you can play while your pup chills out in the house, to get them used to different noises that they might not hear every day (dogs barking, kids playing, fireworks, gun fire, hammering etc). Play these VERY quietly to start with and only turn them up little by little as long as your pup does not react.
  • Slowly get your pup used to being handled all over. Pick a time when they are tired, and work on looking at teeth, ears, holding paws, stroking tail etc. Feed your puppy for being calm and accepting of what you are doing.
  • Teach your pup to play hide and seek. If you are home with other people, get someone to hold your puppy while you hide in another room and call them, then give them lots of praise and treats when they find you. Or if you’re home alone, teach your pup to find a favourite toy or treat. Start with really easy hiding places and then work your way up to making things trickier once they understand the game.
  • Dress up in unusual outfits to get your pup used to the different people they might see in the real world. Put on things like a big hat, dark sunglasses, a fluoro vest, a onesie or costume, a face mask (had a few dogs freak out about us wearing these at work over the last few days!), a trench coat, goggles etc.
  • Practise basic obedience skills such as eye contact, recall, sit, down and wait for food. These skills will be vital once your puppy is able to go out and about, and the training will engage their brain and tire them out – a tired puppy is a good puppy!
  • Once your puppy is fully vaccinated, short walks around the block so that your puppy can see/hear/smell their neighbourhood environment will be hugely beneficial (just remember to say ‘NO!’ if someone asks to pat your puppy as your puppy is in your bubble, gotta stay safe out there!) Try to vary the route that you take each time, and keep the walk to a max of 15 to 20 minutes so that you don’t put too much pressure on your puppy’s growing joints. Practise good leash manners by praising and feeding your dog when they are walking nicely next to you.

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