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If you are like many other pet owners, then you may have adopted a puppy just before or during lockdown. While this certainly means that you have a furry friend to help you through these trying times, there is also a bit of hitch. This, of course, is that you now have to learn how to socialize your dog during a time of social distancing rules.
The thing is, you can’t avoid socializing your puppy, even during a pandemic. If you are intent on raising a healthy, happy, well-behaved dog then you have to conduct this part of their training. Fortunately, this isn’t an impossible task. With the right tips, tricks, and guidelines you will be able to ensure that your dog is socialized as needed.
Here are a few ways you can safely socialize your dog during the pandemic:
Understand What Socialization Means
The first thing that you need to do is to appreciate what socialization means. A lot of people mistakenly believe that it’s all about exposing your pup to as many different situations and circumstances as possible. However, this isn’t the case at all.
As you can imagine, it is virtually impossible to ensure that a puppy has access to all environments and situations during their training. Instead, your focus should be on ensuring that they have positive and safe experiences with the new situations that they are encountering. Trainers should always work on building the dog’s self-confidence up in any new environment. This approach is how trainers prepare service animals to keep their calm in various environments, in both public and private areas. In turn, dogs who are properly trained can handle almost anything that they encounter.
Similarly, you need to ensure that your puppy feels safe in different situations and environments. At the same time, you will need to make sure that these experiences are positive.
Focus on the Most Significant Elements
As you may be aware, socialization involves getting your pup familiar with various people, animals, items, and more. Of course, during a lockdown, your hands are tied and there is a limit to how much you can expose your pup too.
This is why you need to determine what the most important elements are from a typical checklist. To do this, consider where you live and your lifestyle. What is your pooch most likely to encounter. If you live in the middle of a city, then they will most likely have to contend with different people, other dogs (maybe cats), vehicles, and loud noises.
If you live in a more rural area, your pup may meet lots of different kinds of wildlife, encounter large vehicles, and have to walk over a wide variety of surfaces. It is also possible that they will have to deal with storms and more extreme weather. If your dog shows signs of being frightened by loud noises such as thunder, try slowly desensitizing them to the phobia so they become more familiar with it, or diverting their attention away by focusing on something else such as practicing tricks for treats, or using their favorite toy to play with them.
Based on your lifestyle, make a list of what your pup should be most socialized with. As long as you cross these off your list, your pup should be ready to deal with any new scenario. At the very least, you can ensure that your pup will behave well in most situations.
Under normal circumstances, your pup would be able to see people of all heights and sizes, wearing different clothes, and carrying various objects. Since people aren’t allowed to enter your home and more or vice versa, you will need to get creative.
So, make sure to play dress-up with your pooch. On various days wear glasses, sunglasses, hats, scarves, coats, helmets, and anything else that you can find in your home. Go in and out of your home and allow your puppy to get used to this sight.
Make it a point to carry different objects around them such as packages and boxes. You may want to wheel around suitcases or push something resembling a stroller. If it is possible, use skateboards, bicycles, or skateboards around them as well.
Create Different Surfaces and Structures
You also need to get your pooch used to being around different surfaces and structures. If you have a house with a yard, this is much easier. You can get them used to walking on gravel, sand, grass, bark, concrete, and more.
If you live in an apartment, it may be a little trickier. Still, there are plenty of ways to let your dog get used to different textures. For instance, let them walk all over carpets and pillows. You can also set out baking trays for them to walk all over. Place your pup in an empty bathtub and let them feel what it is like.
You should also expose your puppy to different structures like gates, shelves, and more. To do this, you can take them around your home, particularly into places that they may not be allowed. This allows them to be comfortable around all kinds of structures and items.
Be Around People But At a Distance
There is a limit to what you can accomplish inside your home. At some point or another, you will need to expose your pup to other people and animals. Due to pandemic rules, though, you will need to keep at least six feet between you and other people.
One thing that you can try is to sit as close to your gate as possible. This way, they can see all the people and dogs walking past. Make sure to give them lots of positive reinforcement when they behave appropriately.
Another thing you can do is take a drive with your pooch and park in a store parking lot. Your dog will then be able to see all kinds of people coming and going. Once again, make sure to reward him or her for behaving well and not barking or getting overly excited.
As you can see, with some patience and creativity, it is possible to socialize your pup during the lockdown and with social distancing rules in place. Follow the guidelines mentioned here and you should end up with an adorable and well-behaved dog in no time at all.
To learn more about how to practice safe social distancing with your pet, check out our dog walker guidance for the Covid-19 Pandemic article.
About the Author
Tasha Williams has been a dog trainer for over a decade. In particular, she has experience with socializing and training service dogs. Tasha is also involved in pairing service dogs with owners.