Asha says you should read Ask the Vet with Dr. Juanita. (Healey photo)

How to socialize Fido during a Pandemic

ELMSDALE: During this time of global uncertainty, there are parts of our lives that have been put to the back burner. If you have (or will soon have) a new puppy at home, it is imperative to keep up their socialization during these times of isolation. A puppy’s critical (or social) period ranges from around 3 weeks to 3 months of age. This is the time when puppies can readily accept new things or people and still feel safe.  ​

When a dog lacks this crucial socialization, multiple behaviour problems can arise, such as fear, anxiety and aggression.

With the following advice I hope that you can start your puppy off on the right foot. Please share this blog with as many puppy owners as you know!

First and foremost, click HERE and download the puppy socialization checklist from Dr. Sophia Yin’s website. Near the end of the blog you can click on the link to download the puppy socialization checklist. It gives a good outline of all the different things puppies need to socialize to, and one can tweak these during isolation.

There are plenty of ways to expose your puppy to new things without coming into contact with other people. For example, you could allow two dogs to play while respecting the social distancing rules in your area. An adult well mannered dog could meet your puppy, provided the humans stay distanced apart.
You could walk your puppy around a shelter or other fenced in area where there are dogs in a yard or other confined areas. Allowing them to greet through the fence would be beneficial as long as the other dog(s) are showing playful behaviours. If your puppy seems nervous around certain dogs barking and lunging, give some distance, then have your pup sit and look at you and take some food. If he doesn’t eat the food, gain more distance and sit and feed again until he is eating. 

Using a gentle leader can help you keep your puppy’s head where you need it to be, looking up at you while sitting. ​

Having stuffed or fake dogs to play around can also help. Play videos of other dogs barking and have your puppy eat a meal near the computer or screen the videos are coming from. This can help your puppy associate other dogs with eating yummy food. 

However, socialization is not just getting your puppy used to meeting other dogs or strange people,  it is EVERYTHING in this dog’s world. This is easy to do from home without anyone around (you might have lots of free time right now anyway!). Again, refer to Dr. Sophia Yin’s checklist.

Lastly, this is the time for puppies to learn that they can’t greet everyone. I always find that people are shocked when they hear this from me. It is good for puppies to see people and not interact with them ALL the time. Teach your pup from a distance while walking down the street, to sit and look up at you while another person is passing by. Impulse control is undervalued these days and if not properly managed could lead to reactivity between dogs or people.

With everything going on in the world, making sure your puppy is well socialized can seem small. However, this time will pass and when it does, you will feel good knowing that you provided your newest family member with skills that will carry it through its entire life.