So, you’ve just brought home your new puppy and you are ready to raise him as well as you possibly can. And then, suddenly, lockdown! Unfortunately, socialisation – which is so vital for pups – can’t really happen while we’re all ‘social distancing’.
However, although you cannot socialise your puppy with other dogs and humans much at the moment, there is still plenty you can do in the comfort of your own home to prepare him for the outside world. Animaltalk shares a few tips with you…
1. Many dogs grow up afraid of loud noises (such as thunder and fireworks), household noises (like the vacuum cleaner), or even things like motorbikes or babies crying. While your pup is between eight and 16 weeks old, you can gently start to get him used to these noises. Simply go to YouTube, find the sound you want, and gently play it in the background while your pup is playing and having fun. Start at a very low volume, which you can gradually increase – only increase the volume once you see that your pup is showing no reaction at all to the noise. This way, he learns to associate the noise with having a good time.
2. Dogs can be quite sensitive about the things they feel underneath their paws. We very often see dogs refusing to walk over surfaces that are new to them, because it just feels too strange. Get your pup used to walking on different surfaces by using items you have in the home, such as cardboard, bubble wrap, material and the like. Use treats to reward him for being so brave!
3. Prepare your dog for grooming and vet visits by getting him used to being touched all over his body. Regularly touch your dog’s paws, ears, muzzle and the area under his tail. Be gentle and keep the treats coming – it is not supposed to be a stressful experience in any way.
4. Wearing items that you may have around the house, such as wigs, sunglasses, hats and bike helmets, using things such as umbrellas, canes and crutches, or even carrying boxes, can all help prepare your pup for things he may be exposed to in the outside world in future.
5. Dogs around the world are having the time of their lives at the moment with their humans spending so much time at home, but we have to remember that this situation will likely not last. Imagine how sad all these dogs are going to be when their humans ‘disappear’ to go to work again! You have to teach your pup that alone time is okay. Do this by letting him spend time on his own in a different part of the home, while chewing on a safe chew toy, such as a yummy stuffed Kong. Start with only a short period of time, and then gradually build it up.
If you find that your pup struggles to interact with other dogs or people after the lockdown period, it is recommended that you enlist the aid of a reputable behaviourist, especially if your dog is over 16 weeks old and past his ideal socialisation period.
Article by Noleen Fourie, behaviourist.