It is March 29th, 2020. We are at the height of the Covid-19 epidemic and I have an eight week old puppy. How am I going to socialize this puppy during a time when you have to stay at least 6 feet away from another human being?
One of the silver linings about this period is that people are really becoming creative and thinking outside of the box, to solve problems and stay connected while we wait this out.
We know that if we expose young puppies to many, many different environments, people, sounds, and sights during their first sixteen weeks of life, they will be far more adept at navigating novelty and new things later on in life. Their little brains are the most open to new things at this time so now is the time to build in the resilience that they will need later in life.
I asked the training community for their ideas on how to socialize puppies during this time, and stay safe while doing it. They came through! Below are some of my ideas and their ideas:
1 – I have some clients who are still coming here for me to train their dogs while they wait in their car. We swap dogs!! I train their dog and while they are waiting, they go into my house, wash hands thoroughly, and play with my puppy!
2 – I placed an open umbrella in the middle of the yard and let the puppy figure out what it was. Pretty funny!
3 -I filled a cardboard box with all kinds of noisy but safe stuff and hid some treats at the bottom of it. I let the puppy forage and snuffle through the stuff.
4 – I put some bubble wrap on the floor and waited to see what would happen next! Yikes!
5 – I do puppy “park and train”. I put the pup in his crate and travel to three or four locations around the village. I take the pup out on his harness and leash and just do some “stroll and sniff” for a few minutes and go on the the next spot.
From the community:
6 – Here’s what I’m doing, bear in mind I live in small town in a rural community with access to walking trails that is an allowed activity with social distancing.
7 -Sit out in my front yard with puppy in x-pen to watch neighbors do activities outside.
8 -Wear different hats, sunglasses, odd clothing (just one thing at a time) and walk around house and yard with puppy. Have another household member do the same.
9 -Haul out my dog show junk and drag it around, including my cart, drag it by puppy, take him for a ride in it. Chair, ice chest, training stuff.
10 -Explore my garage. (It’s a scary place!) Take puppy inside camper to explore.
11 – Go for car rides. Really important to avoid chronic carsickness.
12 -Visit parks that are open, avoiding equipment. One park nearby has a stream and covered bridge so that should be safe.
13 – Sit in car parked at grocery store, with puppy in my lap (windows closed) to watch people go by.
14 – Last but not least on my list; play vet! Puppy on kitchen counter. Do a ‘physical’ then work on actual husbandry behaviors. I use Cato boards and Klimbs so the scale won’t be a big deal.
I would love to hear more on this topic myself. I’m sure there are tons of other great ideas!!
15 – You can also expose puppies to novel sounds. I use the Sound Proof Puppy Training app.
16 – – Feed on different surfaces, walk across a cookie sheet, a wobbly pillow or exercise disc, make a slide from a cookie sheet and a small stool, walk over pool noodles, walk under a coffee table with a towel to push out from under, play hide n seek, sit in the parking lot of a costco or Home Depot in the safety of your car, walk a bike past the pup, if safe ride it past pup, if you have crutches or a cane or a wheel chair move those around.
17 – I took a client’s puppy to the Target parking lot to watch people (but not get close). He was able to experience different surfaces, shopping carts going by (at a distance), cars driving around, and we got to practice NOT meeting people (good for this very social puppy). I did have to tell a couple people not to approach, but I still felt we were relatively safe.