Since the emergence of COVID-19, many of us have been quarantined in our homes for the last several months. As a result of being cooped up at home, there’s been a baby boom! The four-legged kind! Many people have taken advantage of the extra time at home by welcoming new furry family members. Shelters and rescue organizations are reporting a surge in applications to foster and adopt.
As all pet parents know, puppies bring joy and companionship to their new families. They also bring a whole host of new responsibilities. From potty training to wellness care, pet parents often face a daunting to-do list when it comes to their newest companion. Not stressful enough? Throw a pandemic into the mix! Now, pet parents face a new dilemma: how to socialize a puppy when quarantine and social distancing are in effect.
Before COVID-19, puppy classes, visits from family and friends, and outings outside the home were all great ways to help new puppies develop appropriate social behaviors. According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, “the primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life. During this time, puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli, and environments… Incomplete or improper socialization during this important time can increase the risk of behavioral problems later in life including fear, avoidance, and/or aggression.” The message is clear: the first few months of your puppy’s life shape the dog he or she will become. So how do we socialize our new puppies if we aren’t able to be, well, social?
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Luckily, hope is not lost. There are plenty of easy ways to socialize your puppy while still complying with social distancing guidelines. The key is to expose your puppy to new sounds, textures, and sights so that the puppy learns that “new” does not equal “scary.”
Here are a few things that you can try in the safety and comfort of your own home:
- Expose Puppy to a variety of surfaces (carpet, wood, vinyl, grass, concrete, etc.)
- Play a variety of music at different volumes to expose your puppy to new sounds (you can even play videos of traffic and busy streets so that Puppy will get used to the sounds of cars and foot traffic)
- Turn on the vacuum! Show Puppy that just because something is loud, it is not something to afraid of
- Play with Puppy’s feet so that she isn’t afraid when it’s time for nail trims
- Open and close umbrellas (maybe do that outside if you’re superstitious)
- Let Puppy look out the window and watch the people and other dogs walking outside
It is essential that you reassure and praise Puppy during and after every new experience. If Puppy seems afraid, do not force the exposure; try again another time. Remember, you want Puppy to have a positive experience rather than one associated with fear.
WE’RE HERE TO HELP!
While we are living in very uncertain times, it is certainly possible to raise a well-adjusted and self-assured dog. If you ever have ANY questions or concerns about your puppy, please give us a call! The staff at Clover Hill Animal Hospital want to partner with you as you navigate through the joys, stresses, and messes of raising a very special addition to your family!