How to Socialise Your Puppy During Lockdown: The Roundwood Guide
Have you adopted or bought a new puppy during lockdown?
If so, you aren’t alone. With people spending more time at home during lockdown, puppy sales have been reaching unprecedented heights.
However, lockdown - as we know - isn’t all fun and games. In fact, the nature of lockdown and social distancing measures make it harder for you to raise your new furry family member properly.
From birth, puppies need to be socialised. This means that they need contact with various aspects of the world around them. A dog who has not been properly socialised risks becoming anxious when they encounter alien things as an adult.
The most important time for socialisation is from birth to 6 months of age.
If you are a new puppy owner, or are considering investing in a new companion, we encourage you to read the following guide first. We have distilled the top tips for puppy socialisation in an age of lockdown, especially for you! Read our ultimate guide to puppy socialisation below...
Engaging the senses
The outside world is host to a vast array of sensory stimulation that many puppies are missing out on due to current lockdown restrictions. Dogs are incredibly sensitive to the sights, sounds, and textures around them, yet owners cannot embrace the outside world with the same sense of freedom as before, especially as we are now restricted to our local area for walkies.
How can you engage your puppies’ senses in lockdown?
Well, the answer is to be imaginative!
Firstly, when it comes to introducing different sounds to your puppy, you take advantage of online resources for sound therapy recordings. Dogs Trust is a great place to start for free sound based treatment programmes.
As with all of these tips, the trick is to start slow. Never overburden your puppy with an influx of stimuli. Start playing the recording at an almost imperceptible volume, and if your puppy shows any sign of fear turn it off immediately.
Crunchy leaves, doormats, grills, rubber floors, gravel, and more. Your dog will encounter a range of textures in their lifetime, but it’s important to get them acquainted with a range of textures before the 6 month mark. This is to reduce anxiety when they reach adulthood.
Think carefully about your walking route during lockdown, and try to mix it up if you can, according to your local area of course. Are there any wooded areas you and your new pup could explore? What about parks?
You could check out the Brent local walks guide here, or connect with local dog walkers online.
When it comes to playing around with textures in your home, your creative juices will come in handy!
You could try guiding your puppy over a rubber mat, such as a bath mat, bringing the doormat inside, and letting them explore everyday objects such as umbrellas, bicycles, pushchairs, walking sticks, rollerblades, etc.
Our top tips are to remember to disinfect objects before you let your puppy explore them, and to constantly praise and reward them (with small treats) as they widen their sensory horizons.
Handling and training your puppy are still very important aspects of socialisation: lockdown or not.
You are probably really excited about welcoming your new family member and can’t stop yourself from stroking them! That’s great, because puppies need to be used to being handled.
We recommend practicing putting a collar and lead on, but remember, take this step by step and if you notice your puppy becoming stressed, stop for a while and continue the next day. You can also introduce a harness very gradually once they are happy being handled around the head, neck and chest.
When handling your puppy, focus especially on the paws, ears and mouth. This will mean that they will be as prepared as possible for their first visit to the vets.
With all this being said, it is vital to recognise the importance of alone time.
Yes, we may be living in another national lockdown, allowing you to give all your love and devotion to your new puppy. But, what happens when lockdown ends? When you have to get back to the office and leave your beloved companion for extended periods of time?
They will get a huge shock! This could result in certain destructive behaviours, such as constant barking, howling, or tearing your new sofa apart!
We recommend, as before, taking small steps (quite literally). Start by walking a few paces away from your puppy, and reward them if they don’t follow you. You could give them a long lasting treat or toy to play with whilst you are doing this. Gradually, extend the distance to which you are walking, until you can be in another room without them becoming worried.
Create a ‘return to work’ plan: plan out your return to work, with your puppy in mind. Consider if you can go home at lunchtime for a quick walk or cuddle, how often you will walk them, or if anyone can ‘doggysit’ for you. Now would be a good time to look into doggy daycare and dog walking services, so you can plan ahead for when you - eventually - return to work.
Your puppy needs to become comfortable in its own company. We recommend leaving the house for around 15 minutes to start with, and then slowly building up the amount of time until you can leave for 1-2 hours each day.
Coupled with this, you might consider crate training your puppy in order to give them a safe and secure place to rest. A dog crate is like your puppy’s own ‘personal den’. You can encourage them to use the crate when you are leaving the house. Similarly to what we have discussed so far, when introducing the crate to your puppy you should use positive reinforcement. This means praising and giving treats when they explore and spend time in the crate.
Just as we said with leaving home, you should slowly increase the amount of time you leave the door closed for. After that, you can begin stepping away from the crate. Take a note of how your puppy reacts.
For detailed crate training instructions, head over to the PDSA website.
If you find your puppy is becoming at all stressed, you can use Adaptil diffusers to reduce stress levels. Think carefully about the areas in which you leave the diffusers; they should not be covered, placed behind a door or underneath furniture. We recommend using Adaptil from the age of 2 months, for 2-3 consecutive months during the socialisation period. For more information about using an Adaptil diffuser, please do contact us using the details below.
In time, your puppy will realise it is completely normal to be alone whilst their family are at work or school.
Contact with people and other dogs
Having contact with other people and dogs is a key concern for new owners in lockdown.
How can you recreate the experience of meeting new, different kinds of people, at home?
We recommend digging through your wardrobe and dressing up in outfits that make you look like a different person - whether this be wearing wigs, high vis, bright colours, dark colours, or a sumo suit - let your imagination run wild!
Ensure this is a positive, and not overwhelming experience, for your puppy by giving them something enjoyable to do like playing with a toy. You could sit them in a ‘den’ or comfortable dog bed whilst introducing them to different versions of yourself!
Introducing your puppy to other dogs is a bit trickier at the moment.
Of course, you can still meet other dogs from a distance as part of your daily exercise. When you encounter other dogs, monitor your puppy’s reaction closely. If they regard their peers calmly, you can reward them with small treats. In time, as we edge further towards hope and a future of reduced (even zero!) restrictions, you can increase the amount of contact your puppy has with other dogs, as this is an extremely important aspect of socialisation.
Once lockdown eases, find friends with dogs that you can meet up with in the park so a more controlled meet and greet can happen. Also, it is worth looking into local dog training groups to see what they can offer, as and when restrictions permit.
Until then, it is key that you book in your new puppy for essential vaccinations. Your puppy will not be able to explore fully and meet other dogs properly, after lockdown has ended, until they have their vaccinations.
To book in or discuss our vaccination program, please contact us on 020 8459 4729 or email email@example.com
Our top tips for socialising your puppy during lockdown
Essentially, whilst lockdown provides far from ideal circumstances for socialising your new pup, there are steps (some whacky!) you can take to make sure they are prepared for ‘real’ life.
Our key takeaways are:
Be creative in introducing different sounds and textures to your puppy in your own home, but make sure objects are sterilised!
Practice putting their collar and lead on, and give them lots of handling…
...but also recognise the importance of alone time!
Ensure you have booked in your puppy’s vaccinations so they are ready to meet other dogs as soon as lockdown ends.
Socialisation requires patience - do everything slowly, step by step, and stop if you notice your puppy getting stressed.
We hope this guide to lockdown socialisation has been helpful. If you have any questions or concerns about your new puppy, please do not hesitate to contact us on 020 8459 4729 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.