Socializing Your Puppy during a Pandemic

You have a puppy and now you are in isolation to help cut down the spread of Covid-19. This is the perfect time to socialize your pup. You can give this little fur ball positive experiences while staying home and practicing social distancing. Let me explain a little about a puppy’s timeline when happy interactions are most important and then I will give ideas on how to accomplish it.

A puppy’s emotional development is multi-layered. Hopefully, you got your puppy from a breeder who has already started the socialization process when the puppy was 3- weeks old. They would gently introduce the little ones to new stimulus.

You have heard that puppies need to meet or see a variety of things while they are young (2 months to 4 months old) to be well adjusted or socialized? What that refers to is a critical period in a puppy’s emotional development, you might have also heard it be called a fear period. Dogs have at least two of these periods before they are 18 months old. Commonly the first one happens between 8-11 weeks old and the second one happens at 6-14 months old. These are general measurements. Your puppy may experience their first period at 7-9 weeks and their second at 7-10 months old and again at 13-15 months old. These are the times they are experiencing critical learning causing them to be more sensitive to negative experiences that could impact their view of the world for the rest of their life.

You can work on preliminary training, simulated vet visits, grooming visits, different surfaces, scary noises and taking your pup for a social distanced walk or a car ride.

First, a little bit about rewards. Use a reward that your PUPPY really likes. It can be as simple as their kibble. Before showing the pup the reward, watch for the pup to do something you want before bringing out the treat.

The best training you can start with is the name game. It is the beginning of a recall. Every time you call your dog, his head whips around to see what wonderful thing might come next. For example, you get ready for your session by setting out 10 pea sized treats on a table in a quiet area. You happily say the pup’s name once and wait up to 5 seconds for the puppy to turn his head to look at you. You verbally offer praise and one treat. I really like this handout for instructions and ideas.

You can simulate a Vet or grooming visit by putting your young puppy on a raised table or counter covered by either a towel or non-skid mat. Have lots of tiny treats ready. Touch feet, open mouth, lift their tail and massage your puppy while giving treats with each touch.

Find as many types of safe textures that you can think of to let your puppy explore. Ideas: grass in your backyard, cardboard, rubberized matting, outdoor sisal mats, slick surface (bathtub), and plywood. The trick is to let the puppy lead the game of exploring, sniffing and walking on these textures with you there to give treats and laughs.

If your puppy gets “stuck” staring at you waiting for the treat in either the Name Game or walking on different textures, you will “reset” the game. Toss a treat a foot or so away from you, let the puppy see you do it. They will run to get the treat and then you can start the game over. You can download apps for scary noises such as thunder, sirens, cars, and people talking. etc You would want to start out with the volume low and slowly increase with each session.

In general, you should strive to make every life experience your puppy encounters to be positive and happy. The best way to do this is with short sessions, 5-10 minutes. I hope these ideas help you and your pup socialize in our non-social times.


Cheri Spaulding owns Rock Nest Training & Pet Care LLC. You can
contact her at 541-895-3162.

Cheri Spaulding - Rock Nest Training and Pet Care in Creswell, Eugene, and Springfield

What do you give a dog with a temperature?

“What do you give a dog with a temperature?  Mustard, because he’s a hot dog!” The joke was told to me by a Veterinarian’s 7 year old daughter. Seriously, what do you do when extreme temperatures hit and you need to have your dog in the car? My dogs have experienced it all.  A road trip with dogs is my favorite thing to do so they have travelled across country multiple times. For a few years, I attended dog shows nearly every weekend and we encountered every kind of weather condition you can imagine.  One day, we started the day with 95 degree heat finishing one agility trial and ended the day setting up for the next agility trial in the snow.

At agility trials and any dog event, the talk is about keeping our dogs happy in the weather conditions—usually hot weather—and sharing ideas. We constantly reminded each other to drink lots of water and encourage our dogs to drink water.   Some wonderful person told me if I’m going to hose my dogs down to cool them off, to be sure to get them wet down to their skin—wetting only the top layer of fur will only intensify the heat.

After 30 years of travelling with dogs, it’s a habit to pay attention to outside temperatures before I load any dogs in the car.  If it’s going to be in the 60s and sunny, I make sure I have water packed in the car.  If I have to park the car and leave the dog, I try to park in shade of a building or trees and leave the windows slightly opened. As temperatures increase, I freeze water so as it thaws the dogs always have cool water.   I pack battery run fans and reflective shade tarps to wrap my car in.  If the temperature is above 75, I consider other options or leaving my dog home.

Dogs cool themselves down by panting and they have sweat glands on the pads of their paws.  Not a great cooling system when wearing a fur coat, especially if they are standing on a hot surface. Many dogs have hard time in extreme cold temperatures.  They only have their fur coat to keep them warm.  A husky may prefer to be outside curled up in a snow covered dog house, but I couldn’t imagine my dog, Geo, wanting to stay outside for very long.

Every dog is a little different in their heating and cooling needs.  The important thing to remember that dog’s thermostat is not very efficient and we need to pay attention to temperatures for them. In the Northwest, outside temperatures don’t drop too low, though lately December and January have been brutally cold. You will need to think about how long to leave dogs stay outside and if they have shelter to get out of the cold.  Our summers can be intensely hot though so consider outdoor walks or training in the morning and giving your dogs car rides in the morning or only on drive through errands, going to the bank or getting coffee.

Rock Nest Training & Pet Care offers dog training classes in an air conditioned facility, both private and group lessons.  Please call at 541-895-3162 or visit www.rocknestpetcare.com for more information.  Find us at www.facebook.com/rocknestpetcare/