Is social distancing during COVID-19 making it difficult to socialize your new pup? Here are some expert-recommended ways to fulfill that need safely!
There are a variety of basic requirements that puppies need to thrive. Among these is socialization – an essential component of puppyhood that helps shape dogs into well-rounded, confident individuals. Socialization is especially important for puppies between 8–14 weeks old. If your pup is around that age, it’s crucial that you find ways to provide him with positive encounters no matter the circumstances! To protect you and your pup during the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center offers tips to help socialize puppies while keeping a safe distance from others:
1. People watch from the comfort of home
Sit with your puppy on your front porch or yard and watch the neighbors and passersby.
2. Play dress-up
Wear different hats, sunglasses, and odd clothing around the house and out in the yard at different times, allowing your puppy to practice interacting with a “stranger.” “When we talk about socializing a puppy we need to look beyond human interactions to all parts of the environment,” says Dana Emerson BS, VT, KPA-CTP, veterinary technician and certified animal trainer with the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. “We want them to have positive experiences with strange, new and novel things. This gives our puppy well rounded life experiences to draw from as they get older.”
3. Introduce new stimuli
Expose your puppy to different things that you may have in your garage or shed, such as shovels, rakes, skateboards, bikes, things that make sound, etc. Let your puppy safely explore these things, and use treats and rewards to make sure he enjoys the experience.
4. Create a mini obstacle course
Let your puppy walk over, under, and around different things. Encourage him to walk across a cookie sheet or a pillow to experience different textures. He can also walk under a coffee table or over a pool noodle to adapt to various obstacles.
“Not all puppies see different textures in their life normally so we want to make sure that during this important learning period they experience different textures, noises and movements,” says Dana. “Again, this is so when later in life if they run across something that they may not see on a normal day, they have a foundation that was built on the idea that ‘new things are fun’.
5. “Surf” on surfaces
Help your puppy experience slightly unstable (but still safe) surfaces. Make a slide for your puppy by placing him on one end of a cookie sheet and elevating it slightly. Place a board on top of a firm ball and then have the puppy stand on it while you help stabilize it.
6. Go exploring
Let the puppy explore different areas of the house under your close supervision.
7. Re-create the vet’s office
Put your puppy on the washer or dryer with a non-skid mat. Use a lot of treats as rewards as you touch your puppy’s ears, feet, back, and belly.
8. Go for car rides
If you have a puppy that gets carsick, make the trips short and enjoyable.
9. Venture out
Go to a grocery store that’s open during the COVID-19 pandemic and sit in the parking lot a safe distance away from people. Keep your pup on a leash, and give him treats as he watches people walk around outside.
10. Listen up!
Expose your puppy to different sounds. Find different soundtracks and songs to play while he rests, plays or eats.
Don’t let COVID-19 thwart your puppy’s development. Use the above tips to socialize your pup without risking your health, and watch as he begins to thrive!