Building Puppy Confidence during the Lockdown
As a new puppy owner, you are encouraged to socialise your puppy with everyday experiences, environments and events and provide positive experiences with many different adults, children and dogs. With Covid-19 impacting the way we all live our lives, it is important to do what you can for your puppy, whilst continuing to follow the government restrictions currently in place. Additionally, you need to think about how the restrictions are likely to impact on your daily lifestyle, how different is it to what your puppy will experience when the restrictions are lifted?
I am alone, I am OK!
As a result of the restrictions now in place, many of you will be spending so much more time at home with your puppy. Which is fabulous in so many ways, however please do take time to get your puppy used to being alone. Do not leave this until a day before you are due back to work, the idea is that the puppy get used to separation over time.
Introduce your puppy to periods of separation slowly, move from one room to another and let your puppy follow you, but ignore them as you do this. As your puppy starts to settle, then move to the next room and ignore as before. Practice a few times throughout the day. You are waiting for moments when your puppy chooses not to follow you, which you can then reward with something they love (chew or filled Kong). Or course, you would still spend a lot of the day engaging and playing with your puppy too!!
You can also practice with a barrier like a baby gate, or play pen. Give your puppy a tasty Kong or Lickimat smeared with something super yummy, like pure pate from JR Pet Products, then step over the barrier for a few moments only, then back to your puppy. Gradually increase the amount of time you step over the barrier (we are talking a few minutes at a time).
Even if you did all this and your puppy was great before the restrictions, remember to keep periods of separation up, have a moment everyday when you puppy spends some time away from you. If you don’t need to go out, just work in another room away from them, ensuring you have spent the time getting them used to being alone. They should be relaxed and comfortable and happy to just rest, or go to sleep when you are not present.
Don’t be tempted to leave the door open when you go to the toilet, they need to get used to this level of separation!
Let you puppy have constant access to their safe space/sleeping area, think of it like a den and make sure lots of positive things happen in and around it. Hide great things in there for them to find!
If there is more than one person in the household, make sure you all share responsibilities like feeding, training, walking and spending time relaxing with your puppy.
I’ve not seen that before, I am OK
You might not be able to go to the places you had planned on going and right now you can not approach strangers and new people with your puppy, but you can take a pit stop on your walk and just spend time with your puppy looking at things passing by. Different types of vehicles, people on bikes and scooters, passing horses, cats, squirrels and sheep and cows in fields. Make sure you are at a distance that your puppy is calm and relaxed and remember to pair the new experiences with something positive like a few tasty treats delivered calmly to your puppy.
Now is the perfect time to get into that attic and garage and see what things you can find! Most of us are likely to keep lots of things we no longer need. Find some safe, low level items with different surfaces, such as sand paper, foil, straw, tiles, bubble wrap, carpet, AstroTurf, etc. Try and find things that your puppy has not experienced before. Lay the surfaces out around the house or garden, placing some treats on and around them. Then let your puppy explore the area without a lead, so they can chose how they will engage with the new novel items. This should be a no pressure environment, if the puppy doesn’t want to explore the first time don’t make them, even just looking can be a great first step.
I’ve not heard that before, I am OK
Think about all the appliances you have in the house, garage and shed that make noises. Often you will spend time getting your puppy used to the common household appliances like the washing machine and the dishwasher, but what about the blender that comes out not nearly as much as you hoped it would! Or maybe now you have time on your hands you want to get to work on the garden, using the lawn mower, drill, hose or leaf blower… Have you taken time to help your puppy feel comfortable around such appliances?
When your puppy is not around, record the sound of the appliance on your phone.
Start to introduce your puppy to the sound gradually by playing it on the lowest volume, you are looking for your puppy to notice the sound, but carry on as normal.
Remember puppies can hear much better than we can so you may not hear it at this level.
Whilst the noise is on in the background your puppy should be nice and relaxed and be able to engage in positive activities such as eating a chew or the contents of a Kong, or find treats in a snuffle mat.
Gradually over separate sessions you can start to increase the volume, making sure your puppy is relaxed and happy.
Make use of your recycling! Keep safe cardboard boxes and create a box of fun with new and novel items for your puppy to explore. Using things like plastic plant pots, toilet rolls, tissue boxes, old clothing, plastic bottles (remember to remove the lid if your puppy is likely to chew it). Place items in your box and treats in and around your box and allow your puppy to explore in their own time, choosing if they are ready to put their head in, which will likely create noises that are new and strange to them. Whilst hearing new noises they also find nice tasty treats, building a positive association to hearing novel noises, over time they will start to build in confidence
When we talk about an optimistic dog, what we mean, is that when a dog is presented with something new, or ambiguous to them, they presume it to be something not to worry about. Spending time building your puppies confidence and optimism is only going to result in a happier, relaxed dog.
If you have more time right now, then use it wisely! Don’t spend time worrying about what your puppy is missing out on, spend time coming up with new and inventive ways to help them see the world as a fun, exciting, non-scary place!