It’s probably no mystery why we’re getting so many more behavior questions during the COVID lockdown than we normally do: Humans are home more, and it’s changing routines and creating stress for us and our pets. Fortunately, my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, is up to the challenge!
Q: I just got a new puppy, and now we’re in quarantine. How can we socialize her if we can’t go to puppy class or take her places?
A: Congratulations on your new puppy. With a little creativity, you can set up socialization situations that allow your pup to experience different sights, sounds and surfaces. Behavior specialists Wailani Sung, DVM, and Lisa Radosta, DVM, and I have the following suggestions:
- Your puppy can see people — and other animals — on walks at a distance of at least 6 feet. Look for opportunities for him to see people wearing hats or uniforms.
- Expose your puppy to the sounds of cars or buses going by and to the sight of objects such as fire hydrants and trash cans. Let him experience different footing, such as pavement, grass and metal grates.
- Turn on the TV. Your puppy can see many types of animals and birds on Animal Planet and the National Geographic channel.
- When you must go out to buy pet food or to pick up groceries curbside, take your puppy along. A car ride is a good experience, and so is seeing delivery people put items into the car.
- Ask dog-loving neighbors to carry treats with them so that if you and your pup see them on a walk, they can toss her some treats from a distance.
- Your puppy may need veterinary care during this time, but veterinarians are practicing social distancing, too. You will need to stay in the parking lot while a vet tech takes your puppy inside for treatment. Ideally, the clinic will use Fear Free techniques and treats to make the experience enjoyable for your pup.
Most important, make sure these are positive experiences. Your puppy should never be scared by exposure to new things.
There’s more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.