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Socialising Pets Whilst Social Distancing

Socialising Pets Whilst Social Distancing

Whether you’ve recently welcomed a new bundle of fluff into the family or whether your older furry has simply been adapting to social distancing, it is absolutely crucial that our beloved pets are still getting the key socialisation that they need.

With puppies up to 16 weeks this is even more important, as younger pups are going through a critical stage of development where their brains latch onto new information like sponges. After this period their brains change, they become less willing to approach new things and as the old saying goes it becomes harder to teach an old dog new tricks.

Fortunately for them, we’ve teamed up with expert dog trainer Ally at Karma Dogs to find out how we can socialise our puppies effectively, whilst respecting other’s distance in public spaces. Here’s what she had to say...

Socialisation vs Habituation

As responsible pet parents it’s important to know what our puppies find rewarding in their early stages and what kind of experiences can actually be damaging for them. Socialisation is not simply allowing your puppy to run around with other dogs, it requires a little more ground work.

For your puppy to adjust to everyday life and grow up to be a confident, resilient dog you need to introduce both socialisation techniques and habituation.

Socialisation - is getting your puppy used to other living things such as dogs, people and livestock.

Habituation - is getting your puppy used to noises and objects that they may encounter such as thunder, cars or the washing machine.

With both of these elements in your dog’s life from an early stage, you will encourage them to be a more confident and comfortable dog who can deal with stressful or exciting situations a little better.

Let’s play dress up!

Letting our puppies experience new people is crucial for their development. In lockdown this might involve taking them outside on bin day or getting your puppy to watch delivery workers bring things to your home, simply getting them used to new faces is always a positive. Ensure your puppy is on a lead if you are outdoors when you do this and at least 2m away from others, always remembering to reward them for keeping calm.

Understandably, new faces are harder to come by whilst social distancing, so you might have to take matters into your own hands by playing a little dress up! Try on some different clothing such as floppy hats, sunglasses hoodies or hard hats - even walking past your puppy with an umbrella up and a backpack on will get them used to these objects. It would be useful to pop a face mask on whilst at home to get your dog used to people wearing these too, as this will be a normal sight now that measures are loosened.

It’s All About The Senses

We all know how stressed some dogs can feel around unusual sounds such as thunder, the vacuum cleaner and even doorbells, so bringing in these sounds early on within a calm, relaxing environment is a fantastic way to overcome any fear.

Start by quietly introducing these sounds from afar, for example whilst your pup is eating their meal or having a tasty treat in a different room, you could turn on the vacuum cleaner and slowly move it around.

Potential shock sounds such as fireworks, weather, babies crying and balloons popping can be easily replicated or found online on YouTube or puppy sound Apps, such as Sound Therapy or Sound Proof Puppy Training.

Out and About

With new measures now allowing pet parents to walk our furry friends unlimited times in one day, it is essential that we give them this exercise! If you are worried about them rushing up to new people, being approached by passers by or whether they’re simply pre-vaccinated and you want to keep them off the floor, there are a number of ways in which your pup can experience the outdoors safely.

For example, by carrying your pup in a doggy sling or sitting on a bench in a public space allows them to see the world whilst out and about and safely experience new things such as traffic, aeroplanes and children. Puppy buggies are great too. Try to get your puppy to see as many people as you can with different headgear, crutches & wheelchairs so these are not unfamiliar to them.

Mini Garden Gym

A fantastic and fun way to give your puppy new experiences is by setting up a puppy gym!

Using different surfaces, hoops, upturned boxes and tunnels, you can create a play centre full of fun right in your back garden. This work is called, ‘proprioception’ and it is great for body awareness and conditioning (and is super fun for all the family!)

Happy to be Alone

It’s important to remember that being left alone is a great skill for any dog, young or old. One of the main downsides to socialising a pup in lockdown is that they will be used to having you around all the time. They follow you everywhere, but it’s important that they also learn to be left on their own.

Don’t forget, puppies actually need at least 16 - 18 hours of sleep every day, so use this time!

Allow them to have time in their crate alone with a chew or snuffle mat and try to find time in your days where you are actually apart from your puppy. You may want to introduce a baby gate or puppy pen so that you can extend the period of time you’re away from them.

Implementing these simple steps early on in their development, can really help pet parents and pups further down the line. Socialising your pup effectively will help to reduce any separation anxiety for your furry friend once lockdown is over.

How are you keeping your pets social whilst social distancing? Share on our social channels @rosewoodpet.

About Karma Dogs

Ally Gilbertson from Karma Dogs aims to help people gain a deeper relationship with their dogs. She is a reward-based trainer with a passion for helping dogs and their owners, training life skills in the real world rather than just training in an indoor venue. Ally has been teaching for over 5 years, offering sessions which are bespoke to a client’s individual needs, and her training is 5 star rated. Puppies, adolescents and adult dogs as well as gundog breeds all come to Ally for help and guidance and believes in a blend of mental and physical training exercises, as a stimulated dog is Karma Dog. Accredited with two of the leading dog training organisations, the APDT and the IMDT, Ally is also currently studying for her Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour. In her spare time she loves to train & compete with three working labradors and has won a number of working year awards as well as passing the Kennel Club Good Citizen awards up to Gold.

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