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Socialising Your Puppy Successfully Through Covid-19 Lockdown

Many people are understandably concerned as to how to continue or begin socialising new puppies through this period of national lockdown.

It is less than ideal but don’t despair just yet, we have some fantastic tips to help you get the best out of your puppy during this time.

Milo and Sharkey. Dogs at Paxton Vets

Importance of Socialisation

The period of time up to 16 weeks of age is known as the socialisation period, where the puppy’s brain is like a sponge soaking up every new experience.

The puppy’s brain develops at such a fast rate, that it is vital to expose your puppy to, and form positive associations with, as many every day things as possible so that your dog will be relaxed and confident with these when they become an adult.

In an ideal world, exposure to things such as traffic, children, trains, different sounds and loud noises in a positive way are fundamental in setting your new puppy up for success and will ensure that your puppy grows up to be confident, bold and relaxed in all situations.

Unfortunately with social distancing rules, some of these situations are not going to be possible – however there is plenty to do in your house and garden that will help you as much as possible.

The Impact of Covid-19

With social distancing rules and the lockdown continuing for most people, socialising a puppy is going to be challenging and many aspects are going to be impossible right now.

We want to walk you through some of the fantastic ways you can ensure you make the best of this situation and expose your puppy to as much as possible during this time whilst following government guidelines.

7 Important Ways to Socialise your Puppy During Lockdown:

1. Daily handling: getting them used to being gently touched all over, wiping their paws when they come in from the garden and regularly examining their paws, eyes, ears and mouth examined will all help prepare them well for their first visit to the vets.

2. Introduction to the Collar and Lead: associating the collar and lead to a positive experience is really important as early as possible. Even before you can go out for walks, teach your puppy to walk on a loose lead in and around your home and garden and have lots of fun in the process.

Never just put a collar and lead on your puppy and expect them to walk, build up gradually using lots of tasty treats for positive association. Frequent short sessions of 5/10 minutes throughout the day is enough to begin with. Gradually increase these as your puppy gains confidence and concentration, and then advance to walking near to your home once they are fully vaccinated.

3. Daily Walks around the Neighbourhood: get out and about each day with your puppy. The roads are quieter than normal so choose times when more traffic is likely to be passing. If your puppy is not yet fully vaccinated it is still important to get them out and about regularly but carry them or push them in a doggy pram if they are too heavy to carry. Always take a bag of small treats with you and reward them with a treat every time something passes and they remain calm.

Every car, bike, motorbike, lorry, pram, jogger, cyclist, noisy child could be the first time your puppy has been exposed to that particular thing and it is so important at young age to make every experience a positive one.

Bin day is another great opportunity to get outside with your puppy to expose them to some louder noises. Ignore startled behaviour and reward the calm.

4. Garden sounds desensitisation: you should find an abundance of new noises in the garden at this time with many people out in the garden with lawn mowers, strimmers, power tools, children shouting and playing and you may be able to hear traffic noises too.

Remember every one of these is new to your puppy and be sure to reward them with yummy treats when they exhibit calm behaviour to strange sounds. Try not to cuddle them and scoop them up when they are startled as this will reinforce their negative responses.

5. Sounds inside the home: there is an abundance of sounds inside the home to get them used to – including appliances, boiling the kettle, playing music, the vaccum, maybe a crying baby if you have one, the clatter of pots being emptied from the dishwasher. Remember ignore scared behaviour reward calm behaviour to new sounds.

Also take advantage of the TV and try and expose your puppy to the sights and sounds of other dogs and animals at every opportunity. This may be the closest they will get to other dogs for the time being.

6. Preventing Separation Anxiety: teaching your puppy how to be happy in their own company is so important during this Covid lockdown. Many households are out of their normal routine and consequently owners are at home 247, causing the puppy to have constant interaction and no alone time.

This could potentially be a big problem when every one does go back to work if all your puppy has known is to have you around the house all the time. This could lead to separation anxiety which is very difficult to undo once they have started with it.

It is therefore really important that for parts of each day, the puppy is left in the crate on their own or in a separate room. They will then realise whilst their brain is soft that being alone is OK and there is nothing to be scared of and it is a normal part of the day being on their own without you.

Remember never to let your puppy out of the crate or open the door to the room if the puppy is whining as you are reinforcing the behaviour.

7. Mental Stimulation for your Puppy: One of the hardest things about being at home during lockdown and not being able to get your puppy out to exercise them is keeping them occupied so they don’t get bored. The best way to do this is through mental stimulation.

Try and build in several short sessions to your day where you can have quality time with your puppy and work on all of their commands such as; wait, stay, come, sit, down, emergency stop, touch, twizzle and twirl. The more variety of tricks and commands the better.

Make the training fun by playing games like puppy ping pong (a recall game where two people sit a distance apart and you call the puppy to and fro). This is a great game as it can be made more challenging as the puppy gets the hang of it by using different rooms in the house and garden too.

Recall is also one of the most important commands you will teach your puppy so this will set you up for success when you can eventually let them off lead.

Replace physical exercise with mental stimulation.

Positive Association is the Key

This isn’t the easiest time to be socialising your puppy but if you do the 7 things listed above you will have made the best out of the current situation and be well on the way to helping your puppy to grow into a confident and relaxed adult dog who is happy to be introduced to new situations.

Even though we live in Bromley we prefer to commute to Paxton Vets as we know the special care our Cody, the Labrador, receives from them.

He had quite a history of complicated medical problems and the times we have had to visit, we might as well move in, but at 11 years old he is still with us, and that is all thanks to Helen, Adam, Sam, Louisa, Becky, Anika and everyone else.

The dedication, care and empathy Cody and us, his family, receive is certainly more that 5*. I would not trust anyone else with him. He loves them all and licks them to death.

Thank you so much everyone you are all so professional, highly thought of and appreciated by us all. No one can beat you.


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