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Socialising your puppy during social distancing

If you obtained a puppy before or even during lock down, it is important that you find ways to socialise them within government guidelines.

Under normal circumstances, socialising your puppy means a range of things including meeting other dogs, meeting other people, getting used to household sounds and noises and new experiences. 

Usually much of your puppy’s socialisation involves close interactions, like inviting friends round to meet with your puppy, having the postman give your puppy treats, and puppy classes at your local vets.

However, with new social distancing measures in place for the time being, you’ll need to adapt and use new methods to ensure your puppy doesn’t miss out on this vital stage in their development.

Here are our top tips for socialising your puppy during lock down.

1. Reward interactions out and about

When your puppy starts going out for walkies, you’ll no doubt encounter others out getting their daily exercise. Whilst it’s not advisable to let them touch your puppy (since the virus may stick to and spread from their fur, like any other surface) you can still reward their calm behaviour when somebody goes by or shows them attention from 2 metres away.

If you find that your puppy gets overexcited and pulls to see people, make sure you draw their attention back to you with a tasty treat, and reward them once they have settled down.

2. Meeting other dogs

Duck Toller Retriever and Border Collie in poppy field

Making sure your puppy is accustomed to meeting other dogs is critical at this point in their development. In a similar way to socialising your puppy with new people, you can reward your puppy for calm interactions with other dogs, even from a distance. In fact, the distance can be a good thing, preventing any damaging interactions that might worry your puppy.

As well as this, you can let your puppy interact directly with other dogs as long as both dogs are kept on a lead and their owners observe the 2-metre social distancing requirements, but this should only take place as part of your daily exercise with your puppy, and not as a scheduled meet up purely for the reasons of socialisation.

3. Help them become accustomed to the doorbell and visitors

Whilst you can’t invite people over who don’t live with you, you can ensure your puppy gets used to the signs of a visitor – like a doorbell ringing. Have a member of your household step outside the door and ring the bell and reward your puppy for calm behaviour. Keep repeating until your puppy looks to you when the doorbell rings.

4. Play socialisation noises

Socialisation goes beyond just meeting other people and dogs – you also need to be able to expose your puppy to a variety of new experiences that will help them be calm when coming across these experiences in later life. One way to do this is to use pre-recorded socialisation noises, ranging from loud noises like fireworks to domestic noises including traffic and children. 

Simply play the noises to your puppy at a low volume to start off with and reward them for calm behaviour. Gradually increase the volume and keep rewarding their behaviour until they are entirely comfortable with the noise.

The Dog’s Trust have an excellent selection of socialisation noises that is perfect for family pets. 

5. Throw a fancy-dress party

Your puppy needs exposure to lots of different types of people. Whilst fancy dress is no substitute for the real thing, it can go some way to helping your pup get used to the variety of people they’ll encounter in the outside world. Dig out your best wigs, beards, hats and glasses and spray yourself with some different smells whilst you’re at it. Let your puppy give you a good sniff and reward them for calm behaviour.

6. Don’t forget to spend time apart

To avoid separation anxiety in later life, it’s important that you deliberately spend time apart from your puppy occasionally, even when you can’t leave the house. Try leaving them in their crate and going to another room, and reward good behaviour. Read our ‘Complete Guide to Separation Anxiety’ for more information.

Socialising your puppy without being able to interact with people outside of your home may be more difficult, but it’s certainly not impossible. These early experiences are going to set the tone for their behaviour in later life, so you need to make every effort to do your best under the circumstances. 

Once social distancing measures are relaxed, make sure you get out there with your puppy and make up for the experiences they’ve not yet had – but make sure this is always done in a considered and safe way.

And don’t forget that when your puppy gets the right amount of exercise, they become much easier to train and socialise. Get your puppy’s tailored exercise goal, and keep track of how much activity they do each day with a PitPat dog activity monitor.

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