How To Socialize Your Puppy During a Pandemic
How to socialize your puppy during social distancing, self-isolation, or quarantine.
Today I want to share what I am doing with my puppy Savvy to help socialize her while we practice our social distancing and self-isolation.
If you are a breeder or a new puppy owner you may be worried or at least scratching your head about how to properly socialize your puppy with all that is going on.
Now, anything I share here should be taken with a good measure of common sense, and depending on where you are located in the world, you should absolutely be considerate of what your local state and government is telling you.
For those that are not familiar with the puppy socialization window, this time is generally pre - 5.5 months of age. So, pending the age of your puppy, and the work you did prior to the onset of the pandemic, this can help gauge how much work you have ahead of you.
My goal is to help you have a happy, confident puppy, as this will form a solid foundation moving forward.
Let me share 5 things that I am doing to support my puppy Savvy:
Car rides to new places. I am allowing Savvy to check out the world from within the comfort (and safety) of the car. I recommend your pup riding in the crate, then when you arrive at your destination, allow your puppy to come up and sit with you. If you didn’t know it, I am a HUGE stickler for car safety, you can see more on that on my Crate Safely blog post. When your puppy comes up, make sure to have high value treats to pay them for a job well done. This time can also be used to help condition a positive response to the car, helping with any frustration or guarding issues that may pop up.
Surfaces. Train on everything (obviously at home)... grass, dirt, tile, carpet, rugs, wood, yoga mat, rocks, benches. Make a make-shift wobble board with a piece of plywood with a small rock underneath, then pay them for the motion under their fee.. Shape them to stand on a yoga block. Teach them to go up and down the stair. The possibilities are pretty endless with this one.
Sounds. This can be a biggie, especially if you have a puppy that you plan on showing in the future (regardless of venue) now is the time to get them used to the sounds that go with that venue AND everything in between. Think outside the box, you can use YouTube videos for different sounds, get the vacuum out, train in front of the washing machine, train while the kids are making a ruckus playing their games and the list goes on and on. I have more info on my blog post on Scary Noises.
Distracted Recalls. One of our neighbors is constantly in their backyard cutting firewood. I am taking this time to allow Savvy to go to the fence line, then call her back, always rewarding with a high-value treat. This is also great to practice with the kids riding their bikes, as well as other distractions. Heck, even family members (two and four-legged) walking on the outside of the fence can work great, especially when it is super hard for your puppy to call off. Remember if they get stuck, just move closer and help get their attention, and pay for it with high-value cookies.
Leash Walking. If you have more than one dog, then grab a second family member and go for a walk in the yard or even around the living room. Work on, and reward (with cookies) your pups ability to focus on you, not on the other dog and handler.
Now I have talked about things to do, now let’s talk about those things to avoid right now, as we practice social distancing.
Non-essential vet visits. Obviously if your puppy must go to the vet for an emergency, then by all means go to the vet. I would chat with your vet about the necessity of coming in and then make an educated decision, based on your need.
Dog shows and other public venues. All dog events that I know, have been cancelled (I know, we had many on the schedule this month), it is best to wait until things are back to normal before heading out to these activities. Same goes for hanging out at the park, coffee shop ect. Because let’s be honest, puppies are like little magnets.
Public transportation. Pending where you live, this may be a necessity for you, and as I mentioned puppies are people magnets. This will make it hard to keep 6 feet away from others. If you have to use public transportation, leave your puppy at home.
Puppy playgroups. I know this is tempting, it would be so easy to get together with a group of friends and let the puppies play. Even though you think you can stay 6 feet away, wrangling puppies, that insist on playing means that you will have to get close and personal with other people. It is best to just avoid this situation for now.
The reality is, there are more than enough things that we can do with our puppies for the next few weeks, while we are all practicing social distancing to do our part in flattening the curve.
After this time passes, then you can move onto more "hands on" socializing, where your puppy can physically go and get out to fun places and meet new people.
It is important that we all do our part, social distancing is not something to ignore. WE all need to help those around us.
Again, even with my advice, follow your state, and local rules, be smart about this. The faster we flatten the curve, the faster life can get back to “normal” … but let’s be honest, who knows what that will look like when this is all said and done.
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