How can puppies receive proper socialization during a time of absolute social isolation? While we can’t do socializing with people, places, and other dogs, we can expose puppies to positive experiences and give them good associations to things. Here are 7 steps to socialize a puppy during social distancing. Remember to always go at the puppy’s pace with the level of exposure. We want the puppy to have a positive experience. Pair what you are exposing the puppy to with treats, affection, and praise.
Dog trainers everywhere are very concerned about puppies right now. We know the critical nature of puppy socialization and recommend a wealth of activities that involve close contact with a variety of people, places, and other puppies. The window for puppy socialization starts to close around 12-16 weeks of age and we as trainers know that dog owners cannot wait.
1. Build your puppy’s trust
Focus on building your puppy’s trust in you and your family. Build trust through communication, training, house manners, and tricks. You can practice the name game, sit for greets, recall, loose leash walking, all of these can be done in the home or yard. Some fun tricks are twirl, shake, and rollover. Having a great app such as Dogo makes training at home fun and easy. A little secret, dog trainers were always training the owners to train their puppies and now it is a great opportunity for you to do this while you are at home with your young Puppy!
2. Socialize your puppy with new things at home
You can do a lot of socialization to things, people, and sounds. Introduce your puppy to wheels such as bikes, skateboards, strollers, rollerblades, wheelchairs. If your puppy can’t meet many different people right now then play dress up and change the way you look. Pull out Halloween costumes. Let them see winter clothes: hats, gloves, boots, scarves, umbrellas. Expose your puppy to summer clothes such as sunglasses and visors. Watch out the window, porch, or yard for people with dogs, people wearing backpacks, people with leaf blowers or mowing the lawn, or delivery drivers going by and pair with good associations such as treats, affection, and praise.
3. Socialize your puppy with new sounds online
Introduce your puppy to sounds. Youtube has a massive amount of recorded sounds you can expose your puppy to: thunderstorms, fireworks, people of all ages laughing, crying, yelling. Sirens, trucks, construction site noises such as drilling and hammering, you get the idea! There are recordings of all sorts of animals, including dogs vocalizing.
4. Socialize your puppy with household appliances
You have many household appliances and items you can expose them to: vacuum cleaner, hairdryer, blender, garden hoses, doorbell, and stairs. They also make interesting sounds!
5. Introduce your puppy to different surfaces
Expose your puppy to different surfaces: grass, concrete, mulch, gravel, linoleum, plastic tarp, wood, and a wet floor. You place a pillow on the floor to have them walk on something wobbly. Put their pen down on the floor and have them walk across on the metal.
6. Familiarize the puppy with your touch
Emphasize handling, grooming, and examinations at home. Get your dog accustomed to handling, touching, and manipulation. Practice collar grabs, wearing a harness, dragging a leash, put on a jacket or sweater, muzzle training, wearing a cone, taking a bath, and body handling the same way a vet or groomer would. Get them used to hair and nail clippers both the sight and sound of the clippers can be paired with treats.
7. Play with your puppy
Fetch, tug, and playing hide and seek are all ways to tire them out. Having fun and interacting with your puppy will also help you deal with the stress of the current situation.