Puppy training & socialising during 2020
(Please remember to follow government guidelines if and when they change)
The points listed below are useful whatever the age of your puppy. You may have a new puppy that has not finished its’ vaccinations or an older puppy who has had some normal training and socialisation before lockdown.
Helping your puppy to learn to spend time on its’ own now, is really important as one of the biggest problems vets and behaviourists foresee is that we are going to end up with dogs that cannot stay at home on their own.
Separation anxiety and over attachment issues in dogs is already a massive problem and sadly as people were forced to stay at home with their dogs, this is likely to get worse for a new generation of dogs. So whether you have a new puppy, an older puppy, or indeed a dog of any age, please make sure he/she spends time every day at home on their own. Start slowly and gently build up the length of time and gradually get your puppy used to spending time in the house on its’ own (if necessary you may have to take your coffee and sit in the car or hide upstairs!).
If you have an older puppy or adult dog that was used to spending time on its’ own, remember to keep this up and make sure your dog has 2 periods of time alone every day, because, at some point, we will get back to normal and your dog will have to be left home alone.
At Larkmead we usually offer new puppy owners an invitation to a Puppy Party, hosted at Larkmead and run by Behaviourist Dawn Parsons.
Dawn has spent many years helping owners to socialise and train their puppies at puppy parties and puppy classes in the parks and suggesting that owners invite family and friends around to meet their puppies - unfortunately we were not allowed to do a lot of those things this year.
So your aim is to be imaginative and recreate as many new experiences as you can for your puppy.
Socialisation put simply, is about your puppy having a variety of positive experiences that enables them to cope in a positive way with different experiences as an adult dog. For example, your puppy meets lots of children and they are nice to them, so when they have grown up into an adult dog and they see a child, they are relaxed and calm around the child and not nervous or frightened.
We also know that the greater the number of things your puppy sees or experiences as a young puppy, will enable them to cope with new experiences in a more positive way, so the aim is to recreate as many new different situations and experiences at home as possible.
Remember to take things slowly. Gradually introduce things so as not to frighten or overwhelm your puppy - doing things too quickly will result in your puppy not being able to cope.
We are all different, we sound, look and smell different, so if your puppy is only going to see you, they may be nervous of new people.
If you are unable to have visitors to your house, or visit others (post vaccinations of course), try to expose your puppy to different looks by using things like hats, fancy dress outfits, sunglasses, big coats with hoods up, gloves, and high viz jackets.
Open up your umbrella and practice walking your puppy around the garden. If you have a walking stick, practice walking with it or make one out of a broomstick. Practice skipping, singing, jumping on the spot. Put your drama skills to good use and practice walking differently.
All of these things, however silly you may feel, will help with introducing your puppy to the variances of the world outside.
Getting used to walking on different surfaces
Your puppy needs to get used to walking on different surfaces, like carpet, gravel, grass, slippery floors and going up and down steps
If you don't have all these different things at home, get creative and lay a piece of cardboard on the floor or something shiny like a piece of plastic and gently encourage your puppy to walk over it (but be careful, don’t fall over).
There are a variety of socialisation CD’s or downloads available on the internet for puppies. Make sure they include children, playground noises, traffic and again remember to introduce the noises very gently. It also a good idea to find one with fireworks and expose your pup to the strange noises they make - you can read more advice on that here.
You can also use your TV - turn it onto the children’s channels and your puppy will get used to seeing and hearing children running around and playing.
Remember children’s behaviour is often unpredictable, they can suddenly jump in the air or do a cartwheel so never leave your puppy unattended with children.
Take your puppy into the garden, especially when you can hear your neighbours and their children. Stand on your drive or by your front door (with your puppy in your arms if they are not allowed out yet). Sit with your puppy in your car, turn on the engine and if your puppy is relaxed, feed them in the car. (This will help to build up a positive association of the car).
Ultimately, the more effort you put in to ensuring your puppy is exposed to lots of new and exciting things during the first few months of their life, the less risk there is of behavioural problems later on.
If you need further support, please ask your vet at your next visit or contact Dawn Parsons directly.