Getting a puppy in lockdown
How to train and socialise your puppy in the best way possible
I have recently bought a puppy in lockdown. He is a wonderful new addition to the family and he is generally very well- behaved. I want him to continue in this way as he grows older but worry about his socialising requirements in this current climate. Could you let me know in general what you would advise?
You are right to want to give your puppy the best possible start to training and socialising in order to continue to enjoy him. Always remember to be calm and consistent with a puppy. Repetition pays off!
From the outset your puppy needs to understand that you are in charge. He needs to respect your authority, reducing the likelihood of him developing behavioural problems in later life. A strong owner or leader does not need to initiate bullish or heavy handed techniques. By far the best approach is clear-cut body language and plenty of praise to shape desired behaviour, i.e. positive reinforcement. A dog will soon realise what pleases you and what attention he would rather have!
Rewards for dogs are eye contact, talking to them, touching them and feeding them. Puppies should be discouraged from toileting indoors, jumping up and play biting. You need to ensure that you are correcting your pup with a short sharp vocal command to correct any unwanted behaviour and to reward your dog for behaviours you want to encourage. All too often a puppy is inadvertently rewarded for behaviours an owner doesn’t want, i.e. if a pup jumps up, an owner will often look at their dog and push them down, therefore rewarding them with eye contact, talking to them and touching them. A pup will continue the behaviour thinking it is a great game!
The critical period of socialisation is from approximately 2-16 weeks. This is the most important period in a dog’s development. During this time your puppy learns ‘how to be a dog’ with behaviour such as bite inhibition and understanding body language from their mother and litter mates. Socialising your puppy with other friendly dogs as soon as they are clear of their vaccinations is vital. Obviously this so much harder in lockdown. As we can meet one other person on a walk try to organise to walk with a friend with a dog. You will need to socially distance but the dogs can play. Mixing your puppy with adult dogs is vital so they don’t learn that all play is puppy play, essentially bowling over each other.
Classes are a great way to socialise a puppy, unfortunately these are all held on zoom at present. This still meets the training requirements of your dog but you can only rely on meeting dogs on a walk for social interactions. At Best Behaviour, we also run an exercise service which is still continuing. This is open to dogs of 6 months plus and we take them for fun and play outdoors in our secure fields before returning them home nice and tired, it’s a fantastic opportunity to enable dogs to socialise.
It is also vital during this time to leave your puppy at home for short periods. As we are all more home based it’ a perfect time to get a puppy, however problems could develop later on when we inevitably have to leave them. As a family start to leave your puppy, totally ignoring any anxiety or stress they might display when you return. Praise them as soon as they are calmer.
Cages or crates provide a lovely environment or ‘den’ for a puppy as long as they are introduced in the right way. The crate must be of the appropriate size for the breed when it is fully grown- this gives them room to manoeuvre when they are relaxing or sleeping overnight. Leave the door open and praise your puppy every time he goes near it. Scatter some food in the crate so he associates it with treats and he will soon regard it as his safe space. A crate will accelerate house training as you are able to contain them when you leave the house for short periods of time and then let them out as soon as you return.
Dogs are a product of feeding a good quality food, them receiving the right amount of exercise and mental stimulation for their age and breed. Therefore focus on training just as much as exercise to keep your dog well balanced.
Start training him as soon as possible. Introduce sit, down and stay, before moving on to heel and recall work. Puppy classes are wonderful to assist in this.
Try to mix your pup with other friendly dogs at parks and recreation grounds. Puppies need fun playtime often followed by plenty of sleep!
By following this guide you will have a well behaved pup who should be responsive to your family as his owners and know what is expected of him. Socialising him as best as you can during this time will mean that he should be great with both people and dogs alike.