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.

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