Socialization During Social Distancing
Socialization is generally thought of as giving your puppy a positive experience with a variety of people, places, and other animals. The main focus is typically people, dogs, and other animals. However, introducing your new puppy to lots of different people and other animals isn’t really going to be that easy right now with all the social distancing that is happening.
Even now there are ways that you can work to socialize your puppy so that he will be better prepared for when this social distancing thing is over. These are techniques that you can use now, but you can also use them anytime. Indeed, it is best to socialize your puppy with these things even when things are “normal.”
Socialization With The Home
Not everyone realizes how scary everyday things in the home can be. However, a dog who has not been properly socialized with everyday household items may become fearful of such things. This is why you need to provide your pup with positive experiences with all the normal items in your home.
Items that you want your dog to have positive experiences with include:
- Room and ceiling fans
- Carpets and rugs with varying lengths
- Hard, smooth floors like wood, tile, and laminate floors
- Screen, glass, and solid doors
- Furniture of assorted descriptions
- Holiday decorations
- Typical household noises like tv, radio, phones, alarms, vacuuming, laundry, cooking, pots and pans banging, etc.
It is also a great idea to get your dog used to riding in the car and all the normal car and traffic noises. You also want to take your dog to fun destinations so that he will associate car rides with good things and not just trips to the vet. Taking your pup to a park for a walk at least once a week is a great way to make car rides super fun.
Socialization With Outside
You will want your dog to enjoy being outside as well. So socializing him with things in the yard and in nature is a good idea. You want your dog to enjoy grass, mud, dirt, puddles, pebble covered paths, mulch, concrete, decks, patios, and other outdoor surfaces. He should be comfortable with theses surfaces and know where it is okay and not okay for him to eliminate.
Your pup also needs to have positive experiences with outdoor noises. Fireworks, traffic sounds, sirens, barking dogs, airplanes, garbage trucks, and things of this sort. These can all be scary if a dog is not properly socialized with them.
You can also introduce your dog to the other animals that are outside like birds, bugs, squirrels, and other animals. Let him know what he can and cannot chase. If there are areas in the yard that you don’t want him to go, then it’s a good idea to start training him that too.
Create A Schedule
If you take time off when you get a new puppy or you are home for some reason but will return to working outside the home at some point, it is important to create a schedule. Try to look at the times that you will be at work and how long it will take to get there and back. Create a schedule that will reflect these times.
This is also a good time to consider if you can come home on your lunch break or not. If you can, great. If not, you might want to hire a dog walker to come and let your pup out at some point in the day. Or you may want to consider taking your pup to doggie daycare while you are at work.
You will need to fit in all of the walks, playtime, potty breaks, feeding, grooming, snuggles, and care that your dog needs. It is a good idea to walk your dog before you would have to go to work. This will encourage him to sleep while you are away and reduce the likelihood of destructive behavior.
Once you have created a schedule on paper that looks like it would work, work to implement the schedule. You can start slowly before you actually return to work. This will be a much more gentle and kinder way to do it. You don’t want to spend all day with your new pup and then suddenly be away from him for 10 hours a day because of your job and commute.
This is also a good time to start training your puppy that it is okay to be alone. Using a crate is a great way to teach this. If you don’t have a crate then you can use a baby gate to confine your dog to a room. Preferable a room that has a minimum amount of things to destroy.
So, for your schedule, you will get up do morning things, walk your dog, then put him in his crate or room. It is a great idea to stuff his breakfast into a Kong. Then he can work on his Kong while you “go to work.” At first, don’t leave the room at all.
Eventually, you will start to leave him alone in the room for a few seconds. Be sure to return before your pup cries for you or starts to carry on. If you return while he carries on this will teach him that caring on make you appear.
You will slowly extend the time that you are out of the room. Slowly add a few seconds here and a few seconds there. Eventually, you will be able to be away for several minutes, then a few hours without your pup crying for you. Be sure to work slowly and at his pace, always returning before he cries for you.
Vet and Groomer Prep
Now is also a great time to prepare your pup for going to the groomer and the vet. These two situations are pretty weird for your dog. However, if you can get your pup used to them now it will make the real things less scary. This will make the job of the vet and the groomer much easier.
You will want to work in short sessions. Get some super yummy treats and a sturdy table. Be sure that the surface of the table in non-slip. Place your pup on the table and give him treats for standing on the table. He mostly needs to stand on the table at the groomers and the vet so giving him treats for standing on the table is a great idea.
Once your pup is relatively comfortable with standing on the table you can start to touch him more while he is there. Touch his paws, belly, ears, look in his eyes, check out his mouth, and touch any private areas. Vets and groomers will have to do this so getting him used to it now is imperative. Be sure to keep the treats coming as you touch your pup.
Online training for your dog??! Well, not exactly. But playing youtube videos while your dog eats can help him to not be scared of some of the noises that dogs are usually scared of. Find videos that include sounds like fireworks, kids playing and screaming, adults arguing, thunderstorms, dogs barking, and other animal sounds. Find a variety of videos with each of the sounds.
Then play a video while your dog eats his meals. This will help him to build a positive association with each noise. Then when he meets the real thing, he will already have a positive association with at least part of the “scary” thing.
This can also help a dog who is already scared of things like thunderstorms and fireworks. I always play videos of fireworks while my dog eats about a week before the 4th of July. So, when the 4th of July actually comes, he is barley bothered by the real fireworks.
It’s a great idea to dress up in different outfits to introduce your pup to a variety of wardrobes. This will help him to not be scared if he meets someone who dresses differently from you. You should wear hats, scarves, heavy coats, shorts, skirts, dresses, Halloween costumes, uniforms, and anything else that your pup may come into contact with.
You may also want to introduce your dog to a variety of scents that he might smell on other people. Different lotions, perfumes, and laundry soaps will help your dog to realize that people who smell different aren’t scary.
If you really want to take your socialization to the next level during social distancing, then you can practice your acting skills. Wear something different than normal and then act like a different person. Act like a child, a man, a women, someone with OCD, a rougher person, a gentler person, etc. You can even pick favorite TV characters and act them out for your dog.
This will help your dog to understand that different people are okay. Even if he cannot meet real, new people right now. You will also want to try to talk like a different person. Deepen your voice, make it higher-pitched, etc.
It might seem crazy but this can help your dog in the real world and in the long term. He needs socialization and if you can’t get out to see people right now you will have to “be” those people.
All puppies need to have positive experiences with an assortment of people, animals, places, environments, and situations. You can work on socialization to some extent even if you need to practice social distancing. Be sure to keep your pup’s experiences positive and he will become a happy and well-adjusted adult dog.