Essential Socialisation during Covid
In these difficult times I thought it worth emphasising that whilst the usual ideal puppy socialisation methods are not possible, you can and should still be doing as much as safely possible to ensure your puppy grows into a well-balanced older dog.
Getting your Puppy used to Sounds
One of my usual suggestions for any puppy (or even an older, un-socialised dog) is to buy a noises CD which will allow you to gradually accustom your puppy to a variety of different noises, such as traffic, children playing, fireworks, gunshots, etc.
See Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=sound+cd+dogs&ref=nb_sb_noss_2.
As usual, wash your hands properly on receipt of anything arriving through the mail, discard the packing and disinfect the contents.
The idea of the sounds CD is that you play the sounds at the lowest setting so that it does not upset your dog at all and your dog will become used to the sounds of a variety of outdoor and indoor occurrences. Once your puppy is 100% happy at the lower level, you very gradually turn up the sound so that your puppy can tolerate the sounds even, eventually, at a higher volume – be very patient and do very gradually or you may scare your puppy.
You can also associate the sounds with pleasant situations, such as playing the CD while you play or feed your puppy.
Alternatively, to avoid receiving goods through the post, there are also sounds available on the internet but, again, be very careful to start at an extremely low level.
You can, as part of each family member’s daily walk, still let your puppy see and hear others so long as you are at a safe distance. Dogs should not be touched by others as whilst there is no evidence that dogs carry the virus, if touched by someone infected this could then be passed on when another person touches your dog.
There is also some risk if dogs from different families are allowed to interact and whilst on off-lead walks that might prove difficult until you have a reliable recall then at least be sure to thoroughly wash your hands as advised. The Canine and Feline Sector Group have some good guidelines for the present circumstances – see http://www.cfsg.org.uk/_layouts/15/start.aspx#/SitePages/Home.aspx
Fancy Dress and Acting!
You can also dress up in a variety of clothes so that your puppy gets used to you wearing different hats, coats, fluorescent jackets (dogs are often scared by workmen wearing these), etc. This will help your puppy to be more accepting of others who are wearing a variety of clothing.
Practise your acting skills …. you can speak in different voices and vary the volume to ensure your puppy is used to a variety of different voices, and of course use the TV and radio to help this this. Again, start on a volume that your puppy is confident with and build up slowly.
You can also practise approaching your puppy in different ways and getting him or her used to a variety of ways in which people will approach. As always, do this gradually so as not to scare your puppy but you can include: approaching from the front, the side, from behind, touching your puppy over the head, under the chin, touching his tail and rear-end, approaching quietly and then more noisily, approaching faster, etc. Just to reiterate, always do each stage so that your puppy is happy with it and never do anything to scare them. You can also reward with a game or treat after this.
Keeping your puppy or older dog occupied
You can also practise some play-training at home to keep both your dog and yourself entertained! You can teach all the essential obedience exercises during play and games with your puppy and family members. See my blog article on how to teach your puppy or dog to retrieve.
You could also improve obedience (which helps when playing any type of game but especially if you want your puppy to remain in position while you hide food or toys before sending them to either retrieve or eat the goodies you have hidden). This article on teaching your puppy a ‘Release Command’ will help a lot:
You can also give your puppy or older dog a variety of interactive toys to keep them mentally and physically occupied:
Since the easing of lockdown I can now offer face-to-face training in your own gardens or in a suitable public area so long as strict adherence to Covid guidelines are maintained and with a maximum of two people from your household present. I also offer telephone advice for puppy behaviour (such as housetraining, play-biting, chewing, etc).
I can also offer video training to help you progress your puppy’s or older dog’s training, which will also help you to keep your dog better mentally entertained which results in a more relaxed puppy in general.
Meanwhile, keep safe and stick to the government guidelines and hopefully if everyone adheres to the safety advice then we will all be rid of this virus sooner rather than later. I am worried about all the rescue dogs which will have finding their forever homes delayed during this period so please do continue to support your favourite dog rehoming charities and to consider a rescue dog in the future.