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How to socialise your puppy during lockdown

on December 10, 2020

Congratulations on your new addition to the family! Having a puppy is exciting but it can also be a little challenging, especially during our current lifestyle restrictions. As many new dog owners are socialising their puppies in lockdown we thought it might be helpful to talk to our Vet-Know-how team at Vet’s Klinic to give us a few pointers on puppy-love when there are restrictions on our normal life. 
 

You’ve probably heard of socialisation, but why is it important?

Socialisation is often thought to only refer to introducing pups to other dogs, but it is so much more than this. It involves their introduction to other species of animal, people of all ages, sex and ethnicity, people wearing different things or doing different things like riding bicycles or pushing prams, different environments, noises, objects and even different surfaces under their feet.
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Socialising dogs is important as without these experiences as a young dog, they can grow up to be anxious and fearful (potentially even aggressive) instead of confident, happy adults. Therefore Its a good idea whilst you are social distancing to still utilise the socialisation period as much as possible. You can do this by working on your dogs social skills indoors, so that when you can visit the dog park, your dog will remain calm around older dogs, and other people.
 

Why can’t I just socialise my puppy when things get back to normal?

There is a window of socialisation. This is a critical stage in a puppy’s development where they are open to new experiences, of which you should introduce your puppy to as many as possible. Once, this window closes (at around 12-14 weeks of age, depending on breed) they will be more apprehensive when they are exposed to new things.
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It is important that your puppy has positive experiences when being in introduced to anything new. Puppies are also developing their natural fear responses and any bad experiences when they are young may affect them for life. You can read more about how to make dog training and socialisation positive in our puppy journal.
 
 Socialising a dog in lockdown

How can I socialise my puppy during when I can't get out and about?

If you cannot get out and about because of the covid-19 pandemic, there are plenty of things at home you can get them used to. Their breeder may have already started and hopefully they will already be used to television, radio, vacuum cleaners and washing machines.
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You can also purchase CDs with noises of fireworks, thunder and other sounds that you can play quietly to begin with, then increase the volume as your pup gets used to it. If you have a garden, then getting them acclimatised to the noise of a lawn mower and the feel of grass or soil under their feet is ideal.
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Have fun dressing up! Get your puppy used to seeing you and other family members in different items of clothing. Hats and helmets can be particularly scary for some dogs, but you can also add in high visibility clothing, walking sticks, glasses and if you have them wigs!
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 If your puppy is fully vaccinated, then short walks to different places is recommended. Try to ensure they see things like traffic, bikes, wheelchairs, prams, other animals, people and other dogs (from a distance). If they haven’t been vaccinated and you are able to securely carry them, they will still be able to see these things. If you are isolating, even watching the world together from your front door or garden can make a difference to your pup.
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Time out

Unless you are a key worker, it is likely that you are spending a lot of time with your puppy. When you go back to work and leave them, it could be a bit of a shock. This is the ideal time to start preparing your puppy for this. Our blog on separation anxiety has some great tips: Separation Anxiety in dogs after Lockdown.
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Training
This is also the ideal opportunity to bond with your dog through play and training. Puppies are like sponges and love to learn, but keep sessions short, just a few minutes at a time. When teaching your puppy something new, ideally you want to use small, soft tasty treats that they can eat quickly and be ready immediately to do the next thing.
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Vet’s Kitchen Little Stars treats were developed for this very reason. Each star can be broken down into smaller pieces for the ideal reward. There are three varieties to choose from, but you may want to start with our Little Stars treats for Smart Dogs as they contain an added Omega 3 called DHA to support brain development.  
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If you are interested in teaching your puppy fun tricks at home our blog has some great tips: Teach Your Dog Some New Tricks
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 Above all else, have fun with your puppy, they grow up so quick!
 
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