Updated: May 4
It is not an easy time for any of us at the moment but having a new puppy during the lock down can seem very challenging, especially when it comes to socialisation.
Socialisation is one thing that all new puppies owners are aware that this is very important but how can you do it when staying 6 feet away from everyone? Well I can assure you that there are many ways you can still safely socialise your puppy and still raise a happy confident puppy. If anything the distancing can be a positive thing. Most puppies find excitable people rushing over to them very overwhelming.
Socialisation means to teach your puppy to be calm, confident and how to cope in different environments and situations that your puppy will experience in their adult live.
The key time to socialise puppies is between the age of 3 weeks and 12 weeks. This is when they are most inquisitive and receptive to new experiences. That is not to say you can't socialise after 12 weeks. Your dog will encounter lots of new experiences throughout their life. Make them as positive as possible.
The first 8 weeks of your puppy's life they have learnt to socialise with their litter mates, mum and any other dogs in the breeders home so now let's focus on how to build a confident pup around everyday encounters.
I always tell my puppy clients to remember that our cute small little puppies won't be this small and cute forever. The more your puppy gets attention and fuss from strangers on a walk when they are small the more excited your puppy will become every time they see a person walking passed. It won't be long till your tiny puppy is weighing around 5 stone. If your puppy learns that strangers are exciting they will start dragging you every time they see someone in the distance. An excited adolescence dog will probably jump up which can quickly become a behaviour problem and unsafe. Working on teaching your puppy that strangers mean I get rewards from my owner is going to be far better and safer in the long run.
Dogs experience the world through smell, sound, sight and touch with that in mind try to socialise your puppy using their four senses. Here are some ideas on how to socialise your puppy safely at home and using their four senses.
You can socialise your puppy to different moving objects around the house as well as practising walking passed your puppy the same way a stranger would.
Laundry blowing in the wind
Plastic bag blowing in the wind
Dog safe bubbles (bubble dog blaster)
Balls rolling passed
Suitcase beings carried and rolled
Jogging passed your puppy
Walking fast passed your puppy.
Teach your puppy that different noises are not scary. The internet provides unlimited possibilities to play any sound you can think of. There is also an amazing app called Sound proof puppy training by Amy's puppy pre school that provides a variety of different sounds.
During meal times at a low volume play a variety of different sounds each day.
Different animal noises
Getting use to household items
A way to make your puppy's life a bit interesting is to introduce different household items. Everyday place a novelty household item in the other room, scatter some food treats near and around the obstacle and let your dog go in to explore it. Don't move the item. Household items you can introduce to your puppy are:
Vacuum (not turned on)
Umbrellas ( both open and closed)
Introducing the vacuum cleaner / brooms to your puppy
First place the vacuum cleaner in a room turned off and scatter some treats around it. This way your puppy can use their nose to explore and associate the vacuum with positive things. Then on a different day give your puppy a stuff Kong, Liki mat or long lasting chew and turn the vacuum on in a different room. A few days later use the vacuum in the same room as your puppy while they are settling in their bed / crate eating a kong or chew. You are teaching your puppy that when you are cleaning the room this means that you puppy should go settle in their bed rather than running away or attacking the vacuum or broom.
Rearrange the room
While your puppy is outside or in another room sleeping. Rearrange one of the rooms. This is a great socialisation activity to teach your puppy to adjust to change and different surroundings. This could also be done by adding different objects in the garden if you don't want to rearrange things in a room.
Adding different smells
Dogs see the world through their nose. Setting up different scent trails is a great way to socialise your puppy to different smells and to encourage them to use their nose.
Herbs: Drag some dry rosemary, clove, cat nip etc along the grass in the garden or in the house and let your dog out into the garden. ( Don't leave the herb on the floor for your puppy to eat! )
Food trails: with your dogs dry food or with treats make a food trail in the garden.
You won't be able to expose your puppy to different people right now but you can expose them to different looks. Try on a variety of different clothes you might not regularly wear and perfumes you might not normally use.
Walking passed with a stick
Walking passed with an umbrella
This will be very useful for when people want to touch your puppy and for future vet and grooming appointments.
Putting a collar on and off
Putting a harness on and off
Drying them with a towel
Blow-drying (if they will need regular grooming)
Many puppies don't like the feel of walking on different textures or moving obstacles. You can help build their confidence by building safe small obstacle courses (make sure they are no high obstacles and you are not forcing your puppy.) Without a lead attached to your puppy lay out one of the ideas below on the floor. Scatter a few treats around the obstacles and on top of the obstacles. Let your puppy explore. It's their choice to approach the confidence course and their choice to explore the obstacle. Some ideas include:
Pile of blankets
Tunnel (to go through NOT over.)
Empty plastic bottles
Folded garden chair
Empty card board boxes
Adding socialisation to your daily activities
At the moment you might be working from home and as you are only allowed to drive to your local supermarket, taking your puppy on fun countryside walks might not be possible. However this won't be forever so it is still important to teach your puppy how to cope when your life goes back to normal.
Put your puppy in the car and turn the engine on. Sometimes take a short drive around the block so your puppy can get used to being in the car and that they are part of every day life.
Make sure your puppy spends time alone during the day. Naps in another room is one way to teach your puppy to be on their own and not develop separation anxiety when you go back to work.
Accidentally drop a book, spoon or your car keys on the floor (not on your puppy!) to teach your puppy that sudden noises are not a big deal and happen from time to time without any bad consequence.
Your puppy is learning from the day you bring them into your home. It is never too early to start training and to build a strong long lasting relationship. There are many online puppy training options out there now. Make sure you pick one that offers a positive, science-based approach.
Puppy online classes with feedback and advice throughout the 6 weeks
One to one puppy training via video consultations
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