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Congratulations on your new addition to the family! Having a dog is exciting but it can also be a little challenging, especially when it comes to puppy socialising during our current lifestyle restrictions. So, 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 during lockdown.
You’ve probably heard of puppy 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.
Vet Know-how Tip: Without these social experiences young dogs can grow up to be anxious and fearful (potentially even aggressive) instead of confident, happy adults.
Why isn’t socialising your puppy after lockdown enough?
There is a window of socialisation. This is a critical stage in a puppy’s development where they are open to new experiences. Once this window closes (at around 12-14 weeks old, depending on breed) they will be more apprehensive when they are exposed to new things.
It is important that any new experiences are positive. Puppies are also developing their natural fear responses and any bad experiences when they are young may affect them for life.
Vet Know-how Tip: Read more about how to make training and socialisation positive in our puppy journal.
How can you socialise your puppy during lockdown?
There are plenty of things at home you can get them used to. Their breeder may have already started, and they will hopefully already be used to television, radio, vacuum cleaners and washing machines. 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 lawnmower and the feel of grass or soil under their feet is ideal.
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!
If your puppy is fully vaccinated, then short walks to different places are 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.
It is likely that you have been 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 post on separation anxiety in dogs has some great tips.
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, tasty soft treats that they can eat quickly and be ready immediately to do the next thing.
Vet Know-how Tip: 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 Smart + Little Stars as they contain an added Omega 3 called DHA to support brain development.
If you are interested in teaching your puppy fun tricks at home, we have some great tips.
Above all else, have fun with your puppy, they grow up so quick!