In the past week since the UK was asked to Stay Home, I have had so many people get in touch panicked about how they will socialise their new puppy. My response has taken them all by surprise.
In my opinion, and only time will tell, this is the BEST thing that could happen for puppies in regards to the vastly misunderstood and sadly poorly implemented way to ‘socialise’ a young puppy.
Now before anyone tries to lynch me, COVID-19 is serious, VERY serious, we need to be helping each other by staying home. In the UK so far we have been asked to only leave the house for short times for essential trips. Asked to have one exercise trip a day per person and this can be used to exercise your dog.
Here is the bit which is fantastic for new puppy guardians, those with dogs already will tell you how overwhelmed their puppy, and in many cases, they themselves were too, within the first few months of bringing their pup home. How a walk with their puppy would result in a vast number of people stopping to stroke and pet their puppy. How many puppies learnt that all people and dogs ‘should’ pay them attention? And, if any dog or person dared to walk past them without even a backwards glance, then their pup would sit on the street refusing to move. Others will remember when their puppy became so overwhelmed. They knew their pup wasn’t enjoying the interaction, but being truly British they didn’t speak up for their scared puppy, for fear of hurting the person’s feelings.
Guess what? No one should be touching your puppy unsolicited anyway, and now if they do go to do it, you are all meant to be social distancing!!!
So what is ‘Socialisation’?
Life as we know it has changed
Our society has changed, and what was acceptable is no longer, this doesn’t mean your pup won’t adapt in the future. Dog’s are learning all the time. But it does mean you have the perfect opportunity to teach skills many weren’t able to before.
For your puppy, this means they can learn without being flooded (forcefully exposing them to new things), they can instead observe unusual things, let’s be honest people in masks will not phase this generation of pups, from a safe distance. You can reward your puppy for remaining calm around HUGE distractions, again people in masks.
You can teach your pup that paying attention to you even when there is an offer to meet another person or dog pays off hugely for them. You can also teach them impeccable social skills from a distance. Dogs and puppies aren’t stupid, they learn most of what they learn from sniffing, listening and watching.
Success is more likely
So this couldn’t be a better time to set a puppy up for success. By teaching them their foundation skills in situations where they aren’t supposed to be distracted by strangers touching them uninvited and learning the poor behaviours of rushing at every dog without taking time to make observations first.
Instead of worrying, embrace socialisation in isolation, have fun exposing your pup gradually and supported to new things, watching for their body language. In fact, in light of COVID-19, you can access our Intro to Body Language Course for free when you join our Group online Puppy Classes.
Here are our top tips for making it easy for you and your pup to create a confident puppy for the future.
Whether it is just you or an entire family at home with your pup, break out the fancy dress. Or improvise, put items on your head, hands or feet, wearing clothing where it wouldn’t usually be, socks on hands, gloves on feet, jackets over your head etc, the sillier, the better.
If your pup stiffens at the sight of you, take off the item, talk to them calmly, then let them see you put it back on and off again. Don’t laugh and make fun, this is supposed to be enjoyable for your pup, not for your entertainment.
Sit on the floor, let them approach you, move smoothly without sudden movements, as this could startle them.
Novel Surfaces & Noises
Use ACE Free Work to build confidence in walking over novel surfaces.
We use ACE Free Work in both our 1-2-1 consultations online and within our Group Online classes too. It is an invaluable tool for observations and building confidence for life.
Introduce noises of the hairdryer, vacuum, drill in their regular spaces, then in unusual areas of the home or garden too
If you would like to learn more about our online courses or join one of our group classes, click here
The Big Wide World
When you go out, especially if your pup is one of the many likely to remain unvaccinated through this time, carry them. Let your puppy see people, take in the noises and smells, above all else take food with you. Pay your dog (this means give them a piece of food or many pieces) for remaining calm around the new things. Don’t wait for them to get restless, reward them for the moments of calm first.
If your pup is vaccinated focus on rewarding them for paying attention to you when they see children, motorbikes, big lorries (although fewer around). You could teach amazing lead walking, sit’s with distractions, drops, these are all things which will be needed in the future too. You can use a long line of 5m to teach recall, do some searching together. The list is endless.
It may feel daunting, but you and your pup will get through this. If you want extra help, all our services are online. You can book a one-to-one New Puppy Consult or Group Classes. You are not alone. We even have our Facebook Creating Calm Canine Group so you can meet others, like you, who are also raising a puppy during times of social distancing and isolation.
Creating Calm Canines is not only possible, but easy to do, using our little tips
you can Hocus-Pocus your Crazy Pup too.
Stay Home, Stay Safe and Keep in Touch.