HELPING YOUR PUPPY THROUGH LOCKDOWN AND BEYOND
We are a nation of dog lovers so, with more of us now working from home, it's unsurprising many are seizing the opportunity to take on a four-legged friend.
Puppy classes and puppy training are an essential part of introducing your new canine companion to their new environments and socialisation is key in ensuring your puppy is given the best start in their new adventure. But with the current lockdown measures this may prove to be a little more difficult than expected.
However, there are a number of steps you can take despite this, to ensure they have a great start to their new life with you.
Between 12 and 18 weeks of age, puppies can be very sensitive to the world around them. They may feel scared of being away from their litter and in a completely unknown new environment. At this age they need to be introduced to any new people, environments and situations in as positive a way as possible. This will help their understanding of the world as they grow up. Remember, this is a whole new world for them, just like a new baby. They don't know what's right from wrong and it's down to us to guide them.
We need to introduce the best behaviours to them whilst they are young so we can avoid them growing to be fearful of the world around them such as guarding, aggressive responses and anxiety in certain situations.
Puppies need to be exposed to the world outside their homes so that they can get used to sounds, sights, smells, situations and interactions with different people and animals. Socialisation in the dog world doesn't just mean you should have them mix and mingle with other dogs and puppies. Yes, in moderation it helps but they also need to be exposed to sights, sounds, smells and textures.
I still take my dogs, as well as my group walkers around town so they come across many many changes along the way. It really helps to remind them that there is a bigger world out there and not just the forest, the downs and muddy puddles to play in.
Starting with short outings and even working/playing in your garden, then gradually building up their exposure by a few extra minutes each day will help. For those unable to leave the house, sitting and watching, listening and sniffing the air from the front door (on a lead or being held).
Positive reinforcement / positive association with reward should always be practiced when introducing new and repetitive good behaviour. Always carry high value treats, ones they only get when they are in training and have worked hard for. Every walk you do from a young age should be seen as a training walk, a great opportunity for loose lead walking. If they hear a lorry that they are startled at but you are letting them know it's ok, reward them. When someone wants to say hello and your dog is showing interest, reward them for the positive association. When they are focused on you when another dog passes, reward them. They are working and they need reinforcement. The reward is the positive association they have with that something new. If you're introducing the crate to your puppy, even when they have a sniff around and touch the crate, reward them. They need to know it's a positive association.
Being mindful of ensuring that puppies learn to cope well with being left alone after the lockdown finishes, and when life returns to normal should also be considered. Providing different activities every day will help with a puppy’s sense of independence. Puppies need constant care, assistance and guidance.
You could provide them with stuffed toys, licky mats (supervision at all times), chews, safe things to destroy like cardboard or paper and activity feeders. There are hundreds to buy online and there are many websites that show you how to make home made toys like folded and twisted towels with hidden treats inside. This way your puppy will learn that they can have fun on their own and build up their confidence and give you time for a quick cuppa!
Separation can also be practised when your puppy is very sleepy. Put them into their bed, pen or crate and quietly leave the room but always listening to check that they are not showing any signs of distress. Remember, if you have trained your puppy to use the crate, don't leave them in there for too long and only associate the crate with positivity.
Always teach your puppy the behaviours you want them to do rather than focussing on what you don't want them to do. Help them to be the best they can be.
Puppies are beautiful, fun and an adorable part of the family. Be sure to read as much guidance as possible, research breeders and don't pay stupid amounts of money that is currently being asked for. Most of all, be sure you can commit to your puppy for when they come home, before, during and after lockdown.
And most of all, when training your puppy don't set yourself or your puppy too high expectations. Training will take time and every dog is different. Try and get out as much as possible for your daily exercise, it's both healthy for you and your dog !
I offer basic dog training and currently offer one to one training, as well as dog walking services which can be found HERE. If you feel you need help for when puppy joins the family or puppy is already home and need someone to walk your pup and help with their training and socialisation, do get in touch HERE . Read about wellbeing walks with your dog HERE