We all know it is important to socialise our puppies, but how is that possible during current times?
Let’s first consider what socialisation is. Commonly, when you hear the term socialisation, people envisage their puppy meeting lots of people and playing with other dogs. These are elements of socialisation, however, there is much more to it. Puppies have a sensitive period that lasts up to approximately 16 weeks of age, during which time they learn to accept new experiences including people, other dogs, sights, sounds and smells. By introducing our puppies in a positive way to as many experiences as we can we are helping them to grow up to be confident and well adjusted and to take new situations in their stride.
People and dogs
With the current social distancing guidelines of keeping 2 meters apart from each other the picture we had of our dog interacting with lots of people and dogs is not currently possible. Don’t despair, there is still lots we can do.
With the recent easing of Lockdown guidelines and the ability to go out to exercise as frequently as we want socialising your puppy will be a little easier than in previous weeks. Of course, your puppy still can’t directly interact with people and dogs but they can observe them at a safe distance of 2m or more. When out on your walks, if you see a person or dog (Of course at a safe distance of 2m or more away) and your puppy looks at them and remains calm, mark the calmness (‘good’, ‘yes’, click – whichever you are using to let your puppy know that they are doing well) and reward them with a treat, calm praise or play with them using their favourite toy. This will help your dog to see people and other dogs as a great thing and with the reward coming from you it means your dog remains focused on you.
You can also get your dog used to things such as people wearing sunglasses, hats, umbrellas etc – time to start dressing up at home! Currently it is definitely worth getting your puppy used to people wearing masks; if you don't have a mask at home, you can always make one from a scarf. Again, always make sure this is a positive experience.
Even before your puppy is able to go out on walks you can start to accustom them to a wide range of sounds. For example you can download sounds such as traffic noises, children, domestic noises and fireworks (Sound therapy from Dog's Trust - these are free to download). Make sure that you start these off at a VERY low volume, if your dog doesn’t react, then reward them. Over time you can gradually increase the volume. It is critical that this is a positive experience for your dog. You will also need to get your puppy used to household sounds such as the washing machine and hoover. Begin this with your puppy in a different room so it isn’t too loud.
Once your puppy is out on walks you can take them to places where they will hear these sounds in ‘real life’. Remember we want this to be a positive experience so the first time you walk them near a road try to pick a quite road so it is not too much for them. As well as the sound of traffic they also have to learn to deal with the movement of traffic going past.
Our dog’s experience the world in lots of different ways and one is by touch as they go everywhere with bare feet. Try to get your puppy used to a variety of surfaces in a really positive way. You can start this as soon as you get your puppy in the safety of your house. Try to think of as many as you can, here are a few ideas to get you started: tiles, laminate, carpet, grass.
If possible it is good for your puppy to see other animals (Such as horses, sheep, cats) at a safe distance and of course with your puppy on lead and ensuring that the other animal is comfortable with you doing this.
When we first get a puppy it is natural to want to spend all our time with them, it is however vital that your puppy is content being left alone whilst you go out. We don’t want to be leaving them for long periods of time, but do want to ensure that they will relax whilst you go out. Initially, start with very short periods of time (A few seconds) and then gradually build this up. If this is an area you are struggling with get in touch.
We’ve discussed a range of experiences to accustom your puppy to, but the list isn’t exclusive, when you have a moment, sit down with a cuppa and make a list of all the experiences you would like your puppy to experience. Remember that it is vital that your puppy has enjoyable experiences.