It’s important to socialise puppies from a young age, but with the lockdown and ongoing social distancing a lot of owners are worried they won’t be able to do this.

For successful socialisation, puppies need to be exposed to lots of different experiences. This needs to be done in a safe and positive way for you and your puppy. If this is done right, it can help prevent behaviour problems when your dog is older. During the current Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, this may be more difficult to do. We now need to stay in our homes, and puppies will not be able to be vaccinated as vet teams follow Government advice to provide emergency services only. However, there are still ways you can introduce your puppy to the world safely.

It’s important to take things slowly – too much too soon can be a lot for your puppy to take in. The best way to do this is to pair each experience with something good (e.g. a treat) so they create positive associations with it. If they seem scared of the experience, you’ll need to calmly take them away from it, so they don’t develop a long-term fear.

In the home

Getting them used to be touched so you are able to do what you need to for their health and the vet is able to carry out a physical examination will really help long term.

Start by gently touching their ears and give a tiny piece of a treat. Then do the same when touching their nose and mouth. If they’re OK with this, repeat and reward several times. If they try to pull away and don’t seem to like it, touch them softer and for less time and pair with a reward. The goal is to have them not react to handling and to want to be touched. Continue this with the rest of their body and use this same process with picking them up. Do this in short, separate sessions, so they stay interested and make sure they have a break in between for your puppy to play or rest.

Scary sounds

Many sounds can be scary to dogs. Vacuums, hair-dryers, construction sounds, storms, fireworks… to name just a few! The idea is that you want to get your puppy used to these early on, and to learn that there is nothing scary about them. You can find a variety of these sounds online to use to help you to do this. Start by playing these at very low volumes and reward when they are calm. Once they aren’t reacting at all, gradually increase the sound and continue rewarding. This process will take several days, as it’s important to do it very gradually, with rewards, so it becomes normal for them. If they seem unsettled, scared or hide at any point, you will have to turn the volume back down to when they were calm and start building from the beginning again, slower than before.

In the garden

Your puppy should be fine to play in your garden if it is enclosed, safe, and free from other animals, such as foxes. If you’re happy that your garden is safe, then your puppy will be fine to spend time there before they have been vaccinated, especially to help with toilet-training and get them used to outside sounds, such as road noise. If you have other family dogs, who are fully vaccinated, it’s fine to let them interact with your new puppy, but make sure you’re supervising in case play turns a bit rough!

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