There are no classes at present, so in the meantime ... How do we help our puppies to grow up well adjusted in this age of social distancing?
Fortunately, there is still quite a lot you can do at home to make up for the lack of socialization with people and dogs. A major part of socialization is getting puppies confident with new things. If you get your puppy comfortable with new and novel things now, they’ll be better prepared for when the lockdown is over.
Set up a play area to introduce new surfaces, textures, and strange objects. Use stuff you have lying around, like cardboard boxes, kids’ play tunnels, wooden planks. Roll out some aluminium foil or plastic sheeting to walk on. Flip over small containers to climb on. Use pots and tins from the cupboard. Scatter treats around the playground for the puppy to find and encourage it to explore.
Rather than giving the puppy its dinner in a dish, scatter the pup’s dry dogfood around the play area, inside containers, under lids, on different surfaces… and let the dog work to find its dinner. Time consuming and fun for the dog.
Rearrange the playground every couple of days. Keep it fresh.
Have everyone in the household dress up weird sometimes. Put on different hats, wear Halloween costumes, sunglasses, and/or heavy coats. You want to expose your puppy in a slow manner and not scare him. If he seems stressed, back off. For example, if he’s scared of you wearing a hat, place the hat on the floor and allow him to investigate it at his own pace.
Learn about loud noises. For example, have someone turn the vacuum cleaner on, out of view in another room, while you feed the puppy treats. You can work your way up to having the vacuum on in the same room.
Search YouTube for puppy socialization sounds and you’ll find a lot of great resources. Search for audio of kids playing, dogs barking, thunderstorms, fireworks, traffic noise, … It won’t feel completely real for your puppy, but it’s a start. Remember to introduce noises gradually, in small doses, in ways that don’t scare the pup.
Most of us are not literally confined to our homes, so you can still take your puppy out on controlled adventures. On a walk we see things; our dogs smell things. Let the puppy sniff. Take short walks around the neighbourhood. Watching people and dogs and other animals from a distance even without greeting is stimulating. (And clean up after your dog; bag it and bin it.)
You can use this as an opportunity to teach basic commands like Sit and Come that will help when your puppy finally gets to make new friends.
The point of continuing with your puppy’s socialization at home is to teach that life is good. There are lots of things in this thing called life, but they are not scary and most of the time they lead to good things.
And when this is all over .....
The puppy class starts at 7.30pm on Wednesday each week and lasts about 45 minutes.
Before You Get Your Puppy is a free online book by Ian Dunbar. It is available as a pdf download (2.68MB) from: http://www.dogstardaily.com/training/you-get-your-puppy
“The more your puppy bites, the safer its jaws will be as an adult, since it will have had more opportunities to learn that biting hurts.” (Ian Dunbar)