Pet adoptions have skyrocketed since the pandemic, owing to long stretches of time at home isolated from others. This is great news for shelters across the country, and the positive impact on pets and their people alike has been incredible.
While there’s much more close time together at home, puppies may have a harder time experiencing what life is really like on the outside. Puppy socialization during social distancing may have its own set of challenges, but with a little creative strategizing you can safely introduce your new puppy to the world.
Why We Socialize Puppies
Socialization is an essential part of pet ownership. By calmly introducing them to the sights, sounds, smell and sensations of the world, owners are all but guaranteeing their dog will be confident, trusting, and open to new experiences.
Without proper, timely, or effective socialization, puppies grow into adult dogs that lack the necessary understanding of human society. Furthermore, intense behavioral problems, such as separation anxiety, are attached to incomplete socialization.
Approaching the Process
Right now it may seem daunting to safely take your puppy out. As long as certain protocols are observed and closely followed, you will not only remain safe but your puppy will be given the chance to experience all sorts of new places.
The People Challenge
Obviously, puppy socialization during social distancing can present challenges when it comes to approaching strangers. You definitely want to give your puppy opportunities to learn how to handle themselves around new people, but at this point it can only be done safely at least 6 feet apart. You may decide that you don’t want strangers to pet your puppy, and that’s a reasonable request.
It may be best to start on your front porch or driveway. Allow your puppy to observe people riding or walking by. Give lots of praise and acknowledge the many ways they experience the outside world. If they are scared by cars, trucks, buses or the mailman, stay neutral, offer reassurances and boost their ability to understand certain words in our language. Say the word, such as “truck”, give them some pets, and maybe even a healthy treat in order to build positive associations with unknown entities.
In and Around the House
To help your dog make sense of our human world:
- Try on different masks, sunglasses, hats, noisy shoes, costumes, and more.
- Give them the chance to learn about different smells (both good and bad), terrible tastes, different walking surfaces, and loud noises such as the vacuum, blender, or lawn mower.
- Play recordings of fireworks, thunderstorms, parties, and more to desensitize them to the scary, unpredictable feelings typically associated with them.
Puppy Socialization During Social Distancing
Get them used to the car. Start by going for short spins, and increase the time once you feel like they’re comfortable in the car. Park the car in a busy parking lot and give your puppy the opportunity to see, smell, and listen to the various sounds. From people talking to carts crashing to engines revving, your puppy will learn that these sounds are all okay.
Here For You
In this uncertain time, please know that your friends at Town & Country Animal Hospital are always here to help. If you have additional questions about puppy socialization during social distancing, please let us know.