It’s a whole new world for all of us right now and this includes our dogs. There are some specific ways that we will need to modify our puppy raising strategies in order to prevent fallout.
To help maintain our mental health and well being while apathy and/or panic reach out to grip us; we are being encouraged to get up at our regular time, get dressed, eat well and exercise. We must resist the urge to stay in bed under the covers or binge on Netflix or social media (for too long ; )).
In keeping with this sentiment we also must remain proactive and thoughtful in our socialization and prevention strategies. If we fail to do this it may result in a dog who is fearful of new people or unable to handle alone time. Our puppies won’t wait!
Our Pup’s Mental Health
Early socialization, simply put, means introducing our puppies to the environment they will navigate over their lifetime and pairing it with something they love. How will you do this while practicing social distancing?
Puppies also need to learn to be comfortable with short to longer periods of alone time. If you are at home all the time, how will they learn this? These are some of the specific challenges we face right now.
Kids and Puppies and Work OH MY!
In addition we now have the kids home from school. Kids and puppies can be an intense combination. When we pair this with trying to work from home or conduct meetings online it can make for a tense day. What kind of game plans can help keep things running smoothly on the home front for everyone?
In this three part article I want to discuss solutions for socialization, proofing for alone time and ways to help create a home life that fits the needs of the puppy, the kids and the parents working from home.
Let’s start with the time sensitive concept of early puppy socialization.
The good news, introducing your puppy to novel surfaces, sounds and situations is going to look pretty much the same. You will need to get creative and do stuff at home or very close to home versus more elaborate field trips but that is okay. Staying safe matters. When it comes to new people this is where it will differ. Now, instead of getting close to the person you will keep the recommended 6 feet apart and you will feed the puppy as he takes in the smells and the sights.
If anyone stops to chat and admire your puppy (from afar), you are going to feed your puppy. Be mindful that your pup continues to be relaxed about this alternative intro. What does relaxed look like? Wiggly body, relaxed facial muscles, relaxed opened mouth and a gently wagging puppy tail are all good tells for you.
While engaged in conversation with your socialization helper, from the safe six foot mark, keep your leash relaxed and a rapid fire stream of treats coming. This will help prevent the pup pulling and jumping toward them. A major bonus of this technique is that we will have puppies who learn to look at their people and get delicious food versus pull toward strangers and inadvertently get reinforced for jumping up!
This is a fun game from the original Ultimate Puppy Toolkit. Take the overall concept of this game and tweak it to fit these crazy times we find ourselves in right not. It is also a great game to get the kids involved in. Get them thinking of fun ways to do safe introductions to things around the home. Use the social schedule to get inspired. The kids could play dress up with wigs, sunglasses and big hats. They could play toned down versions of the scary monster game. Remember to play it safe, keep it short and keep that puppy set up for success.
If you have a car and the puppy enjoys rides this is another great way to get him out and about and show him the sights. Keep the food and fun flowing and be safe out there. Please do not allow your puppy to ride with his head out the window. There is the potential for injury to his eyes as well as in general it is unsafe.
In the car he can experience the sound of traffic and construction. Perhaps he can see different people and sights. If it is safe to get out somewhere and experience an environment such as a parking lot or a lake you could hop out for a minute. Here you can feed and/or play a quick game and then head out again.
Necessity, The Mother Of Invention
We are indeed in unique times right now. Times that call for flexibility and creativity. If you are socializing a puppy and have tips you want to share we would love to hear from you.