Whilst it may seem like a daunting task at the moment, socialising your puppy really is important. Due to the current Covid-19 lockdown, it is harder than ever to socialise your puppy. So we’ve asked Petplan’s behaviourist, Nick Jones, to look at the importance of introducing young dogs to new situations, people and other dogs and how you may be able to overcome this at home.
Why is socialising your puppy important?
Socialising is the process by which puppies learn to relate to other animals and people.
If puppies miss out on this developmental stage then they can grow up to be painfully shy or even aggressive. However, if socialising your puppy is done correctly then your pet will become a confident, friendly and well-rounded member of your family.
It should be started as early as possible. Puppies under the age of eight weeks have not yet learned how to approach people, situations or objects and the older they get, the more cautious they become when faced with new situations.
Puppies usually go into their new homes at around eight weeks old, so it’s vital to start introducing your puppy to as wide a variety of people, situations and animals as possible.
During lockdown, this may prove a challenge for you, however there are still some things you can do to introduce your puppy to the wider world.
Things you can do to socialise your puppy at home
In a normal situation, you would introduce your puppy to a variety of environments, people and dogs during their first three months, as this is when they are most receptive. However, with the current coronavirus restrictions in place, it may not be possible for your puppy to meet other humans or dogs, or travel to other environments. Here are some things you can do around the house to help socialise your puppy, without putting you or them at risk:
- Make sure to handle your puppy frequently and ensure they’re used to being touched all over, having their ears and teeth checked and their paws and nails played with. Make sure to take things slow and reward positive behaviour. Make sure all family members do this little and often to make sure your puppy is not reactive to being touched. This will help when your puppy needs to be examined by the vet.
- Expose your puppy to as many surfaces as possible. If you have a garden, try and get your puppy outside and playing on grass or mud, as well as allowing them to explore the wood, carpet or rug flooring in your home. However do be careful going outside if your puppy has not received their initial vaccinations as other wild animals that pass through your garden, such as foxes, may present a risk of infection.
- Expose your puppy to as many different objects as possible. The world can be a scary place for a puppy so introduce items such as vacuum cleaners and hairdryers slowly. Other objects that you may be able to introduce your puppy to are unusual items of clothing, such as hats or dark glasses as sometimes puppies find this a challenge. If you can, put on fancy dress and play with your puppy to make this a fun experience for them. As well as this, try to introduce your puppy to objects such as umbrellas and walking sticks to get them used to seeing these things.
- Try to expose your puppy to a variety of sounds too. Perhaps download and use an app or video to mimic the sound of fireworks or thunder to get your puppy used to this. Start off with the volume low and gradually build it up. If you puppy seems scared, take it back a step and wait until they are confident before moving on.
- Do some basic training with your puppy to establish some ground rules. Check out Petplan’s puppy training tips for some tips and tricks to work on.
As well as this, there are some things you can do to help teach your puppy about the world outside of your home:
- If your puppy has not yet received their vaccinations, try carrying them on a walk. This will allow them to see the outside world without putting them at risk of serious disease, and will give them an opportunity to see new things and smell new smells. This may also help them get used to traffic and other noises.
- If your puppy has received their vaccinations and are allowed out, be sure to take them to as many places as you can, allowing them time to have a sniff and explore. At present, there is no evidence to support that pets can transmit coronavirus, however do be careful of other dogs and their owners coming too close. You should always observe the 2m social distance between you and other people, and should avoid letting anyone else touch your puppy for now.
How to socialise your puppy after lockdown
Once restrictions have been lifted, you should be in a good place with your puppy socialisation already, however now you need to gradually introduce the new experiences and environments as they come. Take a look at our guide to puppy socialisation for further tips.
It’s important that you take socialisation slowly and not to overwhelm your puppy with lots of new things at once. Make sure to always reward positive behaviour, and never force your puppy to do something if they don’t want to do it. Use treats when introducing new things to positively reinforce the experience and if your puppy seems scared, calmly take the pressure off until they are ready.
Share this article by clicking on the social media icons below and see if any of your friends have any tips for handling these types of social interactions.