The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down. With so many people now working from home, working less hours or jobless and kids home from schools, this has presented as a great time for so many families to introduce a new dog into the home. Whether it be a new puppy or a rescue dog, now is a great opportunity to really focus on training and settling them into your home. BUT, you must remember that this situation will (hopefully) be short-lived, so it is important that we also prepare our dogs to adjust successfully when life returns to normal. If you don’t act now your pups world may get flipped upside down when all of a sudden they are left home alone after only knowing life with you by their side 24/7. So today, I am here to help you!
Three essential tips when training your puppy;
There are SO many factors to take into consideration when getting and training a new puppy/ dog. I am going to try and simplify it for all those new dog-parents out there who are just feeling way too overwhelmed.
- Make your puppy feel safe and settled but also decide on your rules and training approach and stick with them. Your puppy has just left its mum and litter makes. Your first got is to make your puppy feel safe and loved! Help him to settle in. Create positive associations for him. At the same time, you must remember that every moment is a learning opportunity for your puppy, so start out right. Start out with a plan. So before bringing your puppy home sit down with your family and talk it all through. Will the dog be allowed on the couch, where will you teach the dog to go toilet and how will you do this, what will you feed the dog, what training approaches will you use, the list goes on… Knowing all of this before bringing the puppy home will help set your dog up for success and avoid confusing them. My advice; positive reinforcement is key! Use food rewards to train your puppy and show them what behaviours you want to see more. Ignore or redirect the unwanted behaviours. This will also help build that positive relationship and make your puppy feel safe with you. Also make sure to take your puppy to your local Vet when first bringing them home for a health check. When doing so, ask them any questions you may have – health, food, training and behaviour related. Ask them about positive reinforcement based trainers and puppy classes as some are running virtually at the moment.
- Socialisation is important. The most critical period for socialisation is roughly when your puppy is 3-14 weeks old. This is when their brains are especially receptive to learning about the kind of social world they will live in, as they get older. It is a time when they need lots of positive experiences with all kinds of people and other animals. You may think socialisation is challenging during isolation but there is HEAPS that you can do to prepare your dog for the world around them. Socialisation does not need to mean direct interaction. Socialisation also means exposing puppies to things they will be exposed to throughout their lives, like different sounds, smells, textures, experiences. For example, taking them in the car and turning the engine on, taking them on a walk to listen and watch the cars, trams, trains, bikes, skateboards, other dogs and people go by. Dressing up at home in funny costumes. Ringing the doorbell. Making loud noises in the kitchen. You can even find different recordings for them to listen to, like thunder or babies crying. Make sure to introduce all these things slowly and use food rewards to help make positive associations. There is so much that you can now do to help set your puppy up for a happy and social life.
- Teach your puppy to be ok alone. This is important for all puppies but even more so now during the pandemic. When life returns to normal, we must keep in mind that some dogs may find it challenging when you go back to work or the kids back to school or just generally being out of the house more. In order to avoid your puppy struggling with potential separation anxiety behaviours, now is the time to start teaching them how to be happy on their own. We can do this by giving them a safe, happy place they enjoy being in on their own, without being able to get up to mischief. Make sure you have some baby gates, a play-pen, or a crate. Make it a positive place where your pup wants to be. Fill their space with plenty of safe and fun enrichment toys (Lickimats, kongs, puzzle toys, etc) and make sure they have a nice cosy bed in this space so they can get plenty of sleep. Sleep is essential to healthy growth, contributing to the necessary development of the central nervous system, brain, immune system, and muscles. Despite being little bundles of energy, puppies usually sleep 18-20 hours a day. So please let your sleeping puppy sleep. Aim to separate your dog from you first off when you are home. And slowly build up to leaving the house. Make it gradual, start off leaving them for short periods, before building up to longer.
Side note for those with kids…
Managing a puppy with young kids is going to a pretty full on job in itself, let alone during a pandemic! Please make sure to use management tools like baby gates, play pens etc to ensure everyone stays safe (puppies have razor blade sharp teeth and love exploring with them). Make sure your puppy has a place away from the kids to get its sleep. Make sure to take the kids out for walks without the puppy so the puppy can get a break and visa versa. And NEVER leave kids and dogs together unsupervised.
For more info on child and dog safety and how dogs communicate make sure to have a read of these articles:
- How Dogs Communicate
- Three steps to Teach your child how to safely say hello to dogs
- Teach your child to interact safely with dogs and know the warning signs to look for
- Five Important Skills to teach your Dog when Around Young Children
- Lead by example to show your child how to interact safely with dogs
- Managing your Dog when having Visitors and Children Coming Over
Bringing a new dog home is so special and how lucky are you to have this extra time to spend with them, to get to know them and train them. But please remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is a very unique situation and it will not last forever. Help set your dog up for success, for a happy and enriched life now and post the pandemic.
As always, if you have any questions, please get in touch.
Stay safe and healthy.
Companion Animal Psychology. Happy cats. Happy dogs. Thanks to science. The Sensitive Period for Socialization in Puppies and Kittens. By Zazie Todd, PhD. July 26, 2017
American Kennel Club. How to Make Sure Your Puppy Gets Enough Sleep. By Jan Reisen. Aug 15, 2019