Quarantine and social distancing can make it a little difficult to socialise a puppy like you normally would, however, it’s not impossible. It just means you have to think outside the box and be a little more creative!
Socialising isn’t just about getting your puppy used to other dogs and people, it’s also about familiarising them with common experiences and day to day sights and sounds. In fact social distancing with your puppy might actually mean a better behaved dog when life gets back to normal!
So what non-social ways can you socialise a puppy with much-needed experiences and prepare them for the world outside of those 4 walls?
Introducing your puppy to a variety of different surfaces in your home can prevent them from gaining surface insecurities and build on their confidence. Simply spread them out on a carpeted floor (to prevent slipping) and encourage your puppy to walk over them using treats and positive reinforcement.
Here’s some ideas of things you can use around your home:
- Baking Sheets
- Aluminium Foil
- Outside surfaces (gravel, soil, stones, grass etc)
- The bathtub (without water)
- Cardboard, books & newspaper
Life is quite quiet at the moment but whether you live on a busy street or in a rural area, you’ll want to get your puppy used to everyday sounds. These include traffic, sirens, crowds, babies crying, fireworks, heavy rain etc.
The internet offers unlimited possibilities for playing any sounds you can think of. Simply lower and (slowly) raise the volume whilst giving your dog praise to encourage them to associate these sounds with positive experiences. Other sounds such as animals and noises around your home are also great sounds to play to reinforce that there is no danger to your puppy.
Say Hello from a Distance
Getting outside is important, not just for your mental health, but also for your puppy to experience the great outdoors. For younger puppies who haven’t yet had their injections it’s best to slowly introduce the great outdoors.
Start by standing at your front door or on your driveway and just letting your puppy get used to the sights, smells and sounds. Anytime they notice a stranger (or something new!) praise calmly and give them a treat.
Once you feel they’ve gained the confidence from outside your home, take them on a walk (you can carry your puppy if they’re younger than 16 weeks) and continue the positive reinforcement.
Play Dress Up
Since your puppy can’t meet lots of different people right now, it doesn’t mean you can’t expose them to different types of people. You or a family member can dust off your acting skills and play dress up, you’d be surprised how unsure you puppy may be.
Here are as few ideas to get you started:
- Wearing sunglasses
- Donning a wig or a hat
- Be a delivery person and carry boxes
- Ride a bicycle
- Carry grocery bags
- Wear overalls and carry a bag of tools
- Walk differently (with a cane or stick)
- Wheel round a suitcase
Handling / Experiences
Getting your puppy used to being handled in different ways can help them to relax when they’re at their next vet visit or the groomers.
You can practise by:
- Touching his feet and spreading his paws
- Massaging his back legs
- Touching his tummy
- Looking at his teeth
- Holding his paws and pretending to trim his nails
- Washing and drying them with a towel
- Touching his tail
- Blow drying and brushing
- Gently moving his legs
Mental enrichment for your puppy can be even more important now you’re spending more time at home. Not only do brain training games keep your puppy occupied and burn off that extra energy, but it also allows them to build their confidence and learn to use their senses. Head on over to our ‘9 Ways to Keep Your Dog Entertained Whilst Working From Home’ blog post for some ideas on enrichment games!
A big part of your dog’s life is having the ability to cope with sudden changes in the environment to prevent anxiety and reactive behaviour. Whether it’s the sudden loud rev of an engine, a stranger unexpectedly appearing round the corner or a dog barking at a house you’re walking past. Whatever the change, it's important to teach your dog to not react and stay calm.
You can nurture your dog’s coping skills with positive reinforcement. If you’re out on a walk or in your front garden and a person, dog or vehicle makes a sudden appearance, give your puppy praise and a treat (or their favourite toy!) to encourage them to redirect their attention back to you with a positive reward.
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