If you've ever brought home a puppy, you know that puppy needs to explore your world, meet lots of people, and get out of the house. In these days of social distancing how will you socialize your new puppy? Thanks to the amazing professionals of Avidog, an unmatched breeding education provider, I bring you some ideas! Print out the Socialization Bingo card and broaden puppy's experiences.
First, some cautions...
*If puppy has not yet had their 3 parvo/distemper immunizations, make sure to carry them in areas where other dogs walk frequently through 2 weeks after the third shot.
*While your dog cannot catch COVID-19, her coat could convey the virus, so you'll want to skip letting other people pet her. If others do pet her, take her straight home for a bath. Shampoo and the warmest water possible, without being too hot, will wash the virus off of her. You should follow this protocol when getting home from the vet, too.
*Keep an old towel or two in the car to protect your car seats from becoming contaminated, then wash the towels when you get home and change your clothes and wash yourself.
*Off-leash experiences are only recommended for puppies under 16 weeks old who have a strong desire to stay close to the people. After 16 weeks, puppies lose that need and are more comfortable wandering away so it is no longer safe to work on off-leash activities and it's time to switch to a long lead.
1. GET OUTSIDE! Go for a walk, but keep your distance from other people and dogs. Go where there are lots of sights and sounds. Go to different places to mix it up. The more varied you can make their experiences, the better puppy will handle regular life when it resumes. Don't forget the treats!
*If you have a lot of neighbors who walk past your house, sit outside and watch. While they shouldn't pet puppy, you can work on teaching puppy to sit quietly without barking while you say hi.
*Go to a park, but not the paths or the playgrounds.
*Find a large grassy area to let puppy run and also to observe other people. Play chase-me where you or kids run and puppy chases.
*Go to a parking lot of a grocery store or other busy place. People watch. If puppy acts upset or wants to bark, calm and treat. You want them to associate seeing those people with good things.
*Go to a place where you can watch trucks pass and see firetrucks and ambulances with their sirens blaring.
*Go out to the woods. Venture off the wide paths where others walk so puppy gets a chance to explore on their own. Let them climb over tree stumps, sniff and explore. Let them get distracted and take the opportunity to hide from them. See if they can figure out where you are. That momentary panic when they can't see you will help instill the need to stay close to their people.
2. PREPARE PUPPY FOR THE PROFESSIONALS THEY'LL ENCOUNTER. Practice some simple things at home to help them feel more confident and comfortable when they go to the vet and the groomer. Give treats while you practice these things!
*Set puppy on a table or counter. Look in their ears. Clean the folds in their ears with a q-tip. Look in their eyes and mouth, lifting lips and examining teeth. If you have a stethoscope, real or toy, listen to their heart and touch them all over.
*Wrap one arm around their neck so that their chin rests on your elbow with the other arm over their back and around their stomach. This hold is often employed at the vet's office. You can help your pup be ready and comfortable by doing it at home.
*Practice a trip to the groomer. Put puppy on the table or counter again. Comb or brush them. Pick up each paw and run your fingers around on the bottom and between their toes. Trim their nails. If you have hair clippers or a razor, turn it on and place the non-clipping/cutting part along their body, pretending to clip their fur and mimicking what it will feel like at the groomers.
3. SWITCH IT UP AT HOME! Vary your appearance and puppy's everyday world.
*Use costumes, masks, props, and more to throw off what puppy expects from you. Whether you have kids with a tub of dress ups or have to get creative with your own wardrobe, you can throw puppy some curve balls and enrich their world. A clown wig, a cane or walking stick, crutches, feather boas and scarves, hats of any kind - all of these things can be great tools.
*Even mundane things like wearing sunglasses, a baseball cap, and a hoodie pulled up over your head can be scary for puppy. Get creative and get crazy! Your goal is to broaden puppy's world by helping them be comfortable with lots of different things, not come at the them to scare them.
*Use props like a walking stick or crutches. Puppy perceives these things as actually an extension of you and doesn't understand that it is simply a separate, inanimate object.
*No hats? Put a bowl or a pot on your head. Get creative. Look at everyday objects in a different way.
*You can try essential oils to change your body smell, but perfumes are too strong.
*Feed puppy in different places in your house.
*Make an obstacle course that puppy has to navigate to find their food.
*Make an obstacle course in general, in the house or the back yard. Remember, puppy should not jump off things, but they can climb over, go through, and crawl under!
*Roll a trash can down the street or driveway.
*Push a stroller, ride a bike, skateboard, or roller skate past puppy.
*Play sounds of sirens, thunderstorms, trains, babies crying, children screeching and playing. Vary the location of the speaker from room to room and different places within the room or puppy will tune it out like they do the tv.
*Help puppy get used to someone coming to the door by having one of your family knock on the door and then you open it. Try it with the doorbell. Teach puppy to stay sitting until invited to greet the person who has come in.