Getting a new puppy is an exciting time. Socialisation with others puppies, dogs and humans is an important part of helping your new puppy learn how to interact with other dogs and people in a positive and socially acceptable way.
During the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, with the social distancing guidelines in place and some activities like puppy preschool closed, what are some ways we can still help our puppies grow up to be the best dogs possible?
Peak socialisation period
From the age of about three weeks up to about 17 weeks, dogs have a period in their lives called the ‘peak socialisation period’. This is the age when the puppies are the most receptive to new ideas and before they start developing a fear of new things.
Puppy preschool is usually an ideal opportunity for puppies to meet other dogs and learn how to socialise. But whilst veterinarians are an essential service and are open during the pandemic, some activities such as puppy preschool, which may have normally been available at the veterinary hospital, will not be functioning at this time.
So during this time, some are some important activities you can do to help your pup. Make sure you do regular training sessions with your puppy which will not only help strengthen the human-animal bond, but it will also encourage good behaviours that will be of benefit to the dog as they grow up. Puppy training covers everything from toilet training to responding to commands such as sit and stay, as well as incorporating game play to introduce fetch, drop and recall commands.
You can undertake these puppy training sessions regularly at home. Be sure to use lots of positive reinforcement. Some dogs will be food driven, so the use of food treats can be very helpful when training. Other dogs enjoy rewards such as pats or playing with a particular toy. Remember to incorporate the use of lots of praise and rewards into your training.
Before you consider taking your puppy out for walks, speak with your veterinarian about their puppy vaccination requirements and when it is safe to start exercising your dog away from your home. With the social distancing guidelines in place, you can still take your puppy for a walk, however it is important to comply with the latest guidelines.
This means keeping 1.5 metres away from other people and their pets. Keep your puppy on a lead and try to avoid close contact with other dogs. Your puppy will still benefit from watching how other dogs act around them.
Your puppy can also get used to all the different sights and sounds out and about – such as other people, vehicles and respecting wildlife. You can also practice your training techniques to encourage your puppy to sit and stay when another dog approaches, or when a person passes by.
Remember to wash your hands before and after your activities. If you are concerned about someone having patted your puppy, you can wash your dog with a suitable puppy shampoo which would remove any virus if it was present.
It’s also a good idea to speak with your veterinarian for further advice around puppy training and socialisation specific to your pet during this time. Your vet will also be able to provide advice for any problem behaviours your pet may be exhibiting.