So you decided to get a puppy, pet or foster during this Pandemic? What now?
First, let me say Congratulations! This is always an exciting time for families!
It is proven that pets give us comfort, reduce stress and can help with anxiety so getting a pet at this time can have many benefits! It is always recommended that you give a new pet time to adjust and decompress to their new surroundings so new pets will benefit from being kept in familiar situations and around the same familiar people and routine. You and your family will have extra time for frequent potty breaks, walks and basic training skills, so this may be the ideal time for many!
There will be some challenges however, so let's address a few:
Socialization for 7-16 week old puppies is critical to behavior & training.
This time period for puppies is called "The Imprint Period". It is important to socialize your puppy to help prevent fear, anxiety and possible aggression in the future. Socialization should be on the top of your mind right now. We recommend actively exposing your puppy to new sounds, smells, and experiences. Use positive reinforcements and "happy" voices when your dog experiences something new.
What can you do during this pandemic? Go for walks & let them smell new things. Take your puppy out on a leash if you know when the mail person or delivery vehicle will be passing by. Give them treats to get used to the particular vehicle noise and teach them it's an "okay thing" (kids on bikes or skateboards are essentially the same thing, but keep a greater distance. These can be scary with loud abrupt noises that can often frighten the puppies.) Keeping your social distance from all people is obviously a priority in these situations. If you pass others walking, reward your dog/puppy as soon as you recognize they see them. Taking them on car rides and rewarding good behavior in a vehicle will help them to be better car riders in the future. Get them used to wearing a restraint while riding as well. Seat belts, even for dogs, saves lives! Short car rides now will be very beneficial later!
If you've adopted or are fostering a dog, socialization is also important and the decompression/adjustment is vital. Remember to go slow - at the dog's pace - of what they are comfortable with and ALWAYS use positive rewards & praise. Having a safe place, like a back yard can be a great place to start. Help them become comfortable, less stressed and ultimately safe in everyday life! Helping to facilitate a relationship with your dog or foster dog that is easy and low-stress is the ultimate goal! We are offering a puppy playgroup once a week on Fridays 11am-1pm, call us with any questions!
Many professional trainers are consulting via phone calls or skype so you don't have to go it alone - ask for help if you need it!
PREVENTING SEPARATION ANXIETY
While everyone is at home right now, chances are you don't need to leave your puppy or dog alone. Be aware they are at a higher risk of developing separation anxiety if they are never left alone. So during this time you'll need to create situations that teach your puppy/dog being left alone can be pretty great! Set your puppy up in a special place or crate. Leave them with interactive toys and chews while you work in a separate area daily, if only for short periods of time. Even though it's not easy right now, you'll need to leave the house while working on preventing separation anxiety because your puppy's nose knows you're still near! Try to run an errand, do a small project outside or take a drive around the block. Providing something for your puppy to occupy and soothe themselves is key. Try freezing your puppy's food in a Kong toy with some water or broth (plug the hole in the top!) or frozen marrow bone are options. The Kong website has recipes you can fill your Kong with, click here for ideas! Do some research, come up with something your dog loves! Find something that will keep them busy, happy and occupied so they don't miss you. Short periods of time are always recommended at first. Check out this video on YouTube!
Creating a space for your puppy/dog to go for breaks & to feel safe and protected if great! Even though you may not have a need to crate your puppy/dog currently, what happens when you need to return to work/school? Where would the puppy be left for that time? Many puppies love having a "house" (aka crate) to retreat to when tired or to remove themselves from situations they are not comfortable with. Providing a crate that is cozy, calming and safe is recommended. They have many options available so purchase one that suits your dog's/home's needs. Guiding your dog to love the space is essential and should not be used as a form of punishment. Give them treats when they go in (give treats through the back of the crate or top of the crate while the puppy goes in and the door is open) or feed them their meals while in their crate with the door open. Making it a positive experience is key to them loving it and wanting to be in it!
That's a lot to think about and incorporate in your day if you're like everyone else trying to juggle this strange new situation! We are here to help if you need us! We are open for day school and we are providing puppy playtimes on Fridays and Saturdays for puppies 7-16 weeks old. If you have a puppy or dog older than 16 weeks they could be part of our Day School program. We are able to have your dog in for their first day evaluation and then enroll them in our program! Give us a call to hear all the details: 410-647-6516