Top tips for socialising your puppy during Covid-19
This is a difficult time for many owners of puppies as they find they cannot attend puppy classes and cannot get close enough to other puppies to let them interact. We need to let go of the traditional narrative of classes and puppy parties, and think about what we can do with our puppies, rather than what we cannot do.
Puppies need to learn that the world they live in is safe. To learn this, they need to be exposed to all those things they will come across in daily life, in a non-threatening manner.
The traditional way has been far from perfect, and we have seen puppies traumatised by negative early experiences, originating from interactions with other dogs and puppies. So the puppy world we left wasn’t a panacea either, I was often faced with over excited puppies who would become frustrated if they couldn’t approach any dog they saw, because they had rehearsed the behaviour from a tiny puppy, as the owner attempted to socialise said puppy in the traditional manner of up close and personal.
Having to keep a distance from other dogs, and focus on the owner, may in the long run help some of the timid natured puppies, while their confidence and feelings of safety blossom.
Dogs have the same senses as us, sounds, sight, touch and smell, however smell for the dog is much more significant. Your puppies will be learning about the world primarily through smell. This is why it is so important to let your puppy explore and sniff where other dogs have passed though. The information they are scenting is helping them to learn about their environment, at their pace. This is good socialisation.
Sounds are going to be very different during lockdown. We have already noticed that much of the traffic noise has stopped. No more chatter from groups of people stopping to speak to each other on street corners, and many things that you may have not even noticed before, such as ice-cream vans have now disappeared, aeroplane noise is virtually non-existent. Even though your puppy cannot see these things, the sound of them can still be available and easily accessed on your mobile phone or computer. The BBC have a sound archive that can be freely accessed. There are also some great sound apps available on iTunes and Android phones and Tablets. Each day, expose your puppy to at least one new sound, but do so in a gentle safe way. Introduce the sound initially at the quietest level, and gradually increase the volume while your puppy is relaxed, and perhaps using a Kong or a suitable chew.
How much sound desensitisation you need to do will depend on the home that you are living in, if you have a busy house with lots of noisy children, Xboxes and loud TV’s etc, your puppies may have already habituated to many background sounds. If however, you are at home in a very quiet and calm environment, you may need to design and incorporate a more conscious plan to allow your puppy to adjust.
Most importantly though, whatever you do needs to be achieved in a calm, positive and relaxed setting.
This is not about flooding and overwhelming your puppy with sensations that scare him.
Instead, you want to keep all socialisation sessions happy and no big deal. If your puppy appears scared or anxious, you need to reduce the intensity of the noises or activities.
Of course, there should be plenty of treats involved in all these activities! Your puppy needs to eat every day anyway, so why not use the food to help him see that the whole world is a playground, and there is nothing to be afraid of.
*LATEST UPDATE The RCVS are going to allow primary vaccines for puppies as from next week.
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