We have seen so many customers with gorgeous new puppies in lockdown. While it’s a great time to introduce a puppy to the family as you are at home so much, unfortunately the restrictions in lockdown make it more difficult to socialise your new addition. But there are still lots of things you can do to help your little one adjust to this new world.
Why is socialisation so important?
Puppies can feel overwhelmed in their new home as they are suddenly taken away from mum, their comfort zone and the little bubble that has been their whole world for the first two months. His instinct is to be scared of all the new people and situations in which he finds himself, but it’s up to us to help normalise this change for him. Socialisation is not just about meeting other dogs or people, it’s about exposing your puppy to a range of different scenarios in a positive light, to help him be less scared of new situations as he grows up.
Socially-distanced dog walks
As long as you maintain a 2 metre distance, you are allowed to meet locally with one other person outside for exercise each day. It would make sense to try and arrange to meet friends with dogs for this interaction so that your puppy can be near other dogs. If you don’t have any pet owner friends, why not reach out through your network and make a new dog-walking acquaintance. Alternately, find the local dog walking area and make sure your puppy sees a range of dogs across the park or field, it’s all good exposure.
All manner of people
As well as a range of dogs, ideally your puppy should meet children as well as adults, people in wheelchairs or using walking sticks, men and women wearing hats or glasses, folk large and small – anything that might look unusual or different to a dog. Even with current restrictions there are ways to maximise the opportunity of seeing so many people, albeit at a distance. Take your puppy with you to collect groceries, then you can walk around the supermarket car park and see all walks of life. Alternately, by simply changing the time of your daily walk from your house you are more likely to see a variety of people. Finally, why not make a game of it at home and get the family to dress up in a range of outfits for your puppy to see. And of course, don’t forget to wear a mask around the house so it appears normal.
Change of scenery
Socialisation isn’t just about people and dogs, it also includes normalising a variety of settings such as walking on the pavement, cobbles, grass and sand, being around traffic, crossing car parks, walking down high streets, seeing livestock, going in the water… and so the list goes on! Without travelling you might not be able to experience all these scenarios, but variety is important. Rather than just walking in the same field each day, the more can you introduce him to at a young age the better he will adjust to the world. Take him with you to collect food so that he gets used to travelling in the car, and don’t forget you can bring him into the shop in Winslow or at the warehouse if you have an appointment.
You should also expose your puppy to a range of noises. The washing machine, vacuum cleaner, television, hairdryer, waste disposal etc. These are all machines which can make sudden unexpected noises. Start by letting your puppy hear new noises at a distance (e.g. in a different room) or at a low volume, then gradually move them closer or make the noise louder over a few days. Stop if she seems anxious or nervous, and start over again, further away, a day or two later. You can also buy downloads with sounds such as fireworks, emergency sirens and thunder to help your puppy acclimatise to everyday sounds.
Handle with care
You should get your puppy used to being handled so that he’s not surprised by the vet or groomer when restrictions ease and the time comes to be introduced to them. Make sure you reward your pup for being regularly touched all over, including lifting paws and tail, and examining eyes, ears and mouth.
While you may not be able to attend training classes, it is still really important that you teach your puppy some basic commands such as sit, wait, leave and recall. Contact a trainer for some remote 121 advice or watch instructional videos on the internet if you don’t know how to teach these commands. And of course sign up for a class as soon as restrictions allow to continue your puppy’s learning and mix with other dogs.
Power of positivity
Don’t forget that the most important thing is to make all the experiences positive ones, so you should reward each good reaction with praise and treats. Your pup is likely to be nervous of these new ventures, but if she appears particularly fearful of something don’t force the issue, simply take her calmly out of the situation and try again another time.
While it may be a bit more challenging in lockdown, the more effort you put into socialising your puppy while he is young, the greater the chances are that he will grow into an easy-going good-natured dog.