Coronavirus and puppy socialisation
How are you doing in this awful crisis?
I don’t know about you but initially my brain was fried! I was so worried about the whole thing, how was I going to keep my business running? How could I meet the needs of my loyal customers? How would the puppies become well trained and socialised?
Ok, don’t panic! There is a lot YOU can do to socialise your puppy even if you can’t attend our Puppy School
Even though our world has changed, there are ample opportunities to help these puppies grow up to be adaptable confident companions. Meeting and interacting with a wide variety of dogs, people and animals is important to your puppy’s social development. The critical period of social development starts around 3 weeks of age and ends around 15 weeks of age. (this can be breed specific – herding and guarding breeds for example, have a shorter socialisation period) During this time puppies are particularly sensitive towards new experiences and social interactions. In the ideal world we would endeavour to introduce them to 50 to 100 people, and dozens of dogs and other animals during these early months.
But we are not in ideal times!
So, what can we do?
The most important lesson for your puppy is to learn to trust and be confident around people, of all shapes, sizes and cultures. Build that trust through using games, gently body handling, teaching tricks, teach your puppy to use its nose, impulse control and manners such as learning to ‘leave it’ and ‘wait’ for food, toys, affection and access to the garden. Be consistent with your house rules and ask all the family to adopt a sensible calm approach with the puppy so that they don’t learn bad habits. The last thing we want is a teenage puppy that is big, strong and unruly or who has developed bad manners if it has been allowed to rule the roost and get things on demand while you are working form home or in social isolation. I will teach you more about these essential life skills through my videos.
Make sure you carry your puppy or walk around streets and parks and don’t just choose quiet rural areas. There are now limited opportunities to socialise with people face to face, but we still need the puppy to see and hear things. The term Socialisation is technically towards living things, and the term Habituation is towards sights, sounds and places.
So, make sure that a couple of your walks a week include street walking, to see traffic, hear sounds, see some people entering supermarkets or petrol stations for example. You can also let your puppy mix with a wide range of dogs, as long as you are standing 2 metres away from their owners and don’t touch the other dogs. If your puppy is not yet fully immunised, you can still let him or her observe dogs from the safety of your arms.
Be adventurous with your puppy. teach them to climb on things such as tree trunks, low walks, and benches. help them to explore. Parkour for dogs is an excellent way to socialise, habituate and build body confidence in your puppy. Go and observe sheep, horses, ducks, children playing. Stand at a safe distance and just observe, and be generous with your rewards as you do so. Help them learn to paddle in rivers or the sea, and run through long grass, or bushes. The more you can teach them about the world they live in the better adapted and confident they will become.
Exposure to unfamiliar people: Due to the current crisis, your puppy might not have enough exposure towards unfamiliar people – so you could almost become unfamiliar yourself! For example, how about wearing unusual clothing? Such as; Hats, sunglasses, putting up an umbrellas, wearing a fluorescent jacket, using a walking stick etc. We want to prevent fears or that these unfamiliar sights come as a shock to your puppy when we are out of the crisis and they get to see more people. Therefore, if you can dress up at home and role play being a stranger – that will go some way towards helping your puppy adapt to our diverse world.
Sound Desensitisation: this can be achieved easily from sounds via YouTube or from the Dogs Trust website http://dogstrust.org.uk from their Sounds Scary downloads. These sounds could be anything from heavy traffic, to fireworks to gunshots or children laughing playing etc. You can do the same at home by playing a talking radio station such as Radio 4 where your puppy will hear a wide variety of voices, or from a TV soap such as EastEnders.
Body handling and grooming experiences: Set up a fake veterinary situation where you pick your puppy up and place him or her on a steady surface. Treat a few times after they are picked up and place on the surface. Then pop them on the floor again. Repeat often so your puppy gets used to being picked up and placed on a table. Then start some gradual vet check style examinations. Gently check ears, eyes, bottoms, feet and teeth. Each body part should be accompanied with a couple of treats to make this a positive experience. Ask other family member to to help you by running their hands over the puppy too. Make sure your hands are gentle and slow so as not to stimulate or excite the puppy.
If your puppy has a long coat or is a poodle type cross breed, you will need to start grooming from as early as possible. Use gentle brushes to start with such as a Tangle Teaser or pin hairbrush. Then as the puppy learns to cope with the sensation gradually start to use more appropriate grooming tools such as combs and slicker brushes. The poodle cross breeds need a lot of coat maintenance so make sure you do a little bit everyday, building up tolerance and confidence in the experience. Reward generously throughout and keep the grooming sessions brief.
I hope this blog have given you some ideas in how to safely start socialising your puppy through the Coronavirus crisis.
Don’t forget I can also offer you 1-2-1 tuition from the safety of your own home using the Zoom app. If you need help please do get in touch.https://peopleanddogs.co.uk/what-we-offer/