Socialising Puppies During Corona Virus Lockdown

Image of dog being looked after

Socialising your puppy is really important, their window for socialisation goes up to around 16-20 weeks and in that period of time it is key to get them used to as many aspects of life as possible.  However, at the moment, circumstances are very different to normal – you can’t get close to people and dogs on walks, you can’t have people to your house and you can’t visit the places you might do normally.  But there are still lots of things you can do to help your dog and make sure they don’t miss out on this valuable time.

What is Socialisation?

It’s a common misconception that socialisation is just exposing puppies to anything and everything and them just having to get on with it.  In reality socialisation is about them seeing the world and lots of aspects of it but is also about them having positive associations to those things and learning how to act and behave in certain situations.

For example, it isn’t about puppies meeting lots of dogs, playing with them all and loving them all.  Yes, it is good for them to meet and greet other dogs but it’s also really important for them to learn to chill out around other dogs, so to sit on a bed with a chew and chill out near another dog for example.  Likewise, if you take them to a pub or café, yes it’s good for them to meet people and see what’s going on but you also want them to learn to relax in that environment.

Making Positive Associations

It’s important that the things they see, hear and experience have positive associations.  This will enable them to see those things that way throughout their life, rather than the opposite if they are worried or fearful of something.

If they are worried by something then don’t force them to it, take it at their pace, potentially remove them from whatever that is.  Next time they experience whatever that is make sure it’s from a greater distance and reward them with something particularly tasty to help those associations change. 

Tips for Socialising During Lockdown

  • Use your daily exercise walk to your advantage. Although you can’t do the diversity of trips you would under normal circumstances you can still vary your daily route.  Try to walk to different locations where you’ll encounter different things – fields, houses, traffic, bikes etc.  If there are places in walking distance that your pup will eventually go to, take them to visit the outside of them: pubs, café’s, houses of friends and family.  Let them have a good sniff and familiarise themselves with the surroundings.
  • You will still see people and dogs. You can’t go up and greet them as perhaps you would normally but your pup will still be seeing people and dogs on your walks.  Let your pup see them, watch them and take it all in from a distance.  Offer treats if they seem a little unsure.  Even use this to your advantage – jumping up at people and excessive playing with other dogs is so easily reinforced when pups are able to go up to anyone and everyone.  As they can’t do this now, use this time to help them learn how to be calm when seeing a person or dog by teaching them to sit as they pass.   
  • Use what you’ve got. Get creative when you’re at home with things you can introduce them to that will be a little different.  Dig out old fancy dress costumes, wigs etc.  Put on a bobble hat, sunglasses, baseball hat…  Do you have any high vis, overalls, a motor bike helmet, cycling helmet?  All these things can offer new experiences to your pup.  Again, take it at their pace, be calm and at a distance initially when wearing or showing something new to make sure they’re not worried.
  • Don’t forget technology. How would we be coping without technology at this time?  Well this is no different when it comes to socialising your puppy.  There are some great apps out there full of different sounds to play to our pups that they might not otherwise hear.  Things such as drills, sirens, babies crying, household noises, aeroplanes etc.  YouTube has good ones too.  Introduce these to your pup really quietly at first; play with them while they’re on in the background.  Gradually turn the volume up bit by bit to introduce them to the sounds further.  Again, if there is any nervousness turn it down to a level they were comfortable with and continue to reward and play until they’re comfortable enough to have it a little louder.
  • Think outside the box. Ok so there’s a lot of things that can’t happen at the moment but that doesn’t mean you can’t recreate certain scenarios for your pup.  For example, you’re not going to be taking them in the car right now but you almost certainly will when this is all over.  Get them used to the car by popping them in the area they will normally travel in.  Sit with them, let them have a good sniff.  Even set them up for a journey – them in the boot or harnessed in the back, you in the front.  Even turn the engine on, let them hear the noise and get the feel of it.  Maybe give them a Kong or chew to have while you sit for a while with the radio on, to get them used to being in a spot they’ll soon love!
  • On that note. Another thing that won’t be happening at the moment is visitors coming to your house. But you can still recreate things that will happen in these situations yourself.  If there’s more than one of you in the household get one of you to go out and pretend to be a visitor (dressing up optional!).  Ring the doorbell or knock to get your pup used to that sound, wait to be let in etc.  Just like with manners in the street, use this time to think how you want your dog to behave when visitors arrive – practise not jumping up for example, or sitting in a certain place as you answer the door.  Even practise them chilling out on a bed with a Kong while you and your ‘visitor’ have a cup of tea.

There are lots of things you can do to prepare your puppy for the normal life they’ll experience after all of this.  Don’t panic about what you can’t do but think of the advantages of what you can do.  There is no reason why pups brought home during lockdown can’t be just as socialised as ever.

Virtual puppy classes currently available from Your Pet’s Paradise.  Click here to contact for more information.