When you adopt a new puppy, one of the most important things you can do for it is to socialize it properly. Typically, we advise families to frequent dog-friendly facilities as often as possible to allow their puppy to be exposed to a variety of stimuli, but with concerns of COVID-19 (otherwise known as the coronavirus) running rampant, we have been advised to take on the practice of social distancing. How can you properly socialize your new addition when you need to stay away for your own safety? Don’t worry! We’ve got some suggestions for your family to try!
Adventure, With Caution
Your puppy cannot contract COVID-19, but you can! That is why you can continue your socialization adventures, but with caution. You can still expose your puppy to new sights and smells without coming in direct contact with others. Enjoy a walk around your neighborhood while keeping your distance from others, take your pup for a car ride and allow them to see everything from the window. Indirect interactions with these varying stimuli can be just as beneficial for your dog!
Plus for those of you who might be working from home or whose children are having to transition to online education, there is nothing better to break up your day than with a quick walk around the block!
Okay, so your puppy may not be able to meet a lot of new people, but you can play pretend! Have your family dress up in strange clothing and love on your puppy. Masks, hats, frilly dresses, noisy raincoats, and more. If your puppy seems cautious of one of these, expose them to it slowly so your pup feels safe and grows confident with this “new person” in front of them. You can even add some new body spray to your outfit to make yourself smell a bit different to your new furry friend.
A confident pup is a pup who will thrive throughout his/her life! Spend your time social distancing by building up your pup’s trust in you and your family members. You can do this by teaching your puppy new tricks such as sit, stay and come. These tricks will not only ensure that your pooch is on his/her best behavior, but they will learn that you are a member of their pack and that they want to follow your guidance!
To get even more creative, build small obstacle courses in your backyard with obstacles your pup may not encounter every day. Pull out hula hoops to make jump-throughs, use toys to create mazes or walls for them to navigate, and hide treats for your pup to sniff out. Create a fun, engaging atmosphere for your dog to explore.
Real World Preparation
Your new dog may not be able to go to the vet, groomer or pet store right now, but you can prepare them for those experiences later! Now is the most critical time to introduce brushes, handling of feet and more to your little one. Handle your pup daily, including holding of the feet, tail and ears, get them adjusted to wearing a collar and walking on-leash, and see if your puppy will comfortably and confidently allow you to lay him down. Reward good behavior with lots of praise and treats! Some areas we recommend desensitizing to touch are:
- Feet and toes, especially the pads!
- Pick up legs, straighten them out (gently) and set the feet back down.
- Lift ears, rub the leather of the ear between your fingers, and gently rub inside the ear.
- Open your pup’s mouth, lift lips to examine teeth and run your fingers over the gums.
- Touch the edge of eyelids, but don’t touch the eye!
- Lift the tail up and down
You have to be cautious to protect your family’s well-being during these hard times, but you also want to invest the time into socializing your puppy for a stable future. Incorporate some of these safe and fun ways of socializing your puppy into your daily routine to ensure that he/she is happy and confident in his/hew new home!