Puppy socialisation is key to a dog’s early development, with experiences in the first few months of a puppy’s life playing a huge role in their eventual personality and behaviour patterns as an adult dog. If you’ve recently welcomed a puppy into your home or you have plans to do so during the lockdown period, you may be worried about how you can stick to a puppy socialisation plan while we’re all stuck at home. Benchmark Kennels are here to share some easy and effective ways to socialise your dog from the comfort of your own home or garden – be prepared to get creative!
A puppy socialisation plan:
Despite what you may have heard, puppy socialisation is all about the quality of a dog’s early interactions, not quantity. Instead of exposing your dog to as many unique situations or experiences as possible, you should focus on these new experiences being carried out in the right way, so your dog can form positive associations and learn the right responses behaviour-wise.
By gradually opening your dog up in a laid-back way to new smells, objects, surfaces, sounds, and more, you can ensure that your dog develops a friendly and calm personality, rather than a nervous or defensive one. ‘Gradually’ is the keyword here, as if you try to force your new puppy into new experiences or situations before they’re ready, you can actually end up doing more harm than good.
When you’re trying to get your puppy used to being handled, for example, simply grabbing them and picking them up without warning can lead to them becoming defensive or afraid of being held. Always let your dog approach a new smell, object or person in their own time and have plenty of treats to hand for some positive reinforcement. Along the same lines, if your dog is clearly finding a certain experience overly stressful or distressing, remove them from it, don’t force them to endure it or you can cause long term fear and problem behaviours.
Puppy socialisation in the home…
One of the main aspects of life to get your puppy accustomed to is being touched and handled by humans. Luckily, this is completely doable in your home by stroking and playing with your dog physically so it becomes familiar and relaxed with the idea of being touched. Not only will this help to build a strong and loving relationship between the two of you, but your dog will learn to associate being physical contact or being held as a positive experience. Familiarising your dog with being stroked in a variety of areas is important for when people can eventually socialise again – you want to be able to relax and know that your dog will be friendly around new people.
If your new puppy is a large or working dog breed and will be spending a lot of its time in your garden or in an outdoor dog kennel, it’s still essential to make sure it is socialised with regularly. This way, you can avoid any aggressive personality traits or problematic behaviours emerging and ensure that your dog is content when being stroked or touched, no matter what size it grows up to be! Benchmark Kennels are proud manufacturers of high-quality wooden and WPC eco-thermal dog kennels, suitable for puppies or adult dogs that are too large to spend all their time indoors, or for homes that simply want an outdoor space for their dog to spend some time.
As well as making sure your new addition is happy to be held, there are many smells and sounds in the outside world to expose your puppy to. While our homes are naturally quieter than the outdoors with a lot less for dogs to pick up on in terms of smells and sounds, there are still some easy ways to bring the outdoors in.
Technology is a dog owners best friend in today’s day and age, with there being a wide range of videos and ready-made sounds for puppy socialisation online for you to play around your home or garden and expose your puppy to. Think traffic, fireworks, other dogs barking, children, and more; all sounds that may not naturally occur around your home but that are important for your dog to be exposed to.
As well as the noise of the outdoor world, you can habituate your puppy with common household noises too, such as the washing machine, dishwasher, hoover, music, TV, running water and more. These may seem like everyday sounds to us, but for a puppy, they can be frightening. Try to build up the variety of sounds your dog is used to until eventually, they aren’t fussed by them and carry on as normal.
One aspect of a usual puppy socialisation plan that is going to be particularly difficult during the current lockdown period is separation. If you are to lead a happy life with your furry companion, it is important that your dog is able to spend periods of time on their own, without displaying problem behaviours or becoming anxious. While it may be tempting to spend every minute with your new puppy, this will only cause problems in the long run. With us having no choice but to spend all of our time at home right now, you will need to find new ways to separate yourself from your dog every now and then.
Installing baby gates or closing doors between rooms while your dog is asleep, playing or occupied is one way to keep some distance between you without causing them distress. By making sure to leave plenty of toys and even treats for your dog to play with, you can slowly build up the amount of time your puppy spends alone to prepare your dog for when our routines do go back to normal and we spend more time out the house.
If you have only recently brought your puppy home, the chances are it will have been exposed to very few types of surfaces. Try to tick off a variety of floor surfaces that your dog has walked across by gently tempting them with treats, this way, you won’t end up with a distressed dog when it can eventually venture outside for walkies. Some examples of surfaces to familiarise your dog with are concrete, grass, mud, puddles, wooden floors, carpets, and tiles. While you may not have a wide variety of surfaces around your home, the more surfaces your dog is happy to walk on, the better, for when you can take them on walks outdoors and to other people’s houses.
Last but not least, when sticking to a puppy socialisation plan in your home, consider your daily routine. In the long term, for your dog to adjust to life with you in the right way, you want your puppy to be adapted to a regular routine in terms of eating, walking, playing and sleeping. This is difficult at the moment with most people’s lockdown routines being varied while working from home, but it’s still advisable to stick to a vague routine in terms of what time you wake up, eat, play, go outdoors and sleep. It may seem like a small issue now, but you will thank yourself in the future to have a dog that vaguely understands what happens at various times of the day, instead of a dog that thinks its playtime 24/7.
Puppy socialisation outdoors…
In the garden
As you can see, there are a number of ways to get creative and socialise your puppy within your home. If you’re lucky enough to have your own enclosed garden too, there is even more opportunity. While puppy vaccinations are currently unavailable, a safe and fenced-off garden is a great place to allow your puppy to explore and play, either by themselves or with any other dogs in your household. It’s still important to keep a close eye on your puppy and other pets so you can step in if playtime becomes too rough or your puppy can’t keep up.
The weather is another aspect of life that your dog won’t have experienced before. Luckily, there’s lots of variation in the weather in the UK so you can take your dog outdoors in the garden to show the rain, sleet, sun, ice and more, so they’re prepared for experiencing these when out on walks.
If your puppy has been vaccinated fully, you can start to take them on socially distanced walks around your neighbourhood, making sure to keep your puppy a few metres away from other dog owners and animals at all times. Or, even if your dog hasn’t yet had its vaccinations, you can still take them on walks in your arms so they can see the outside world. While your puppy won’t be able to go near other dogs or people, seeing and hearing different types and sizes of animals, people and cars in the outside world will boost their confidence for when social distancing regulations are lifted.
Order a wooden outdoor dog kennel for your puppy today!
Although lockdown presents a challenge for new dog owners, it’s clear to see that puppy socialisation can still be done and dogs can still be kept busy around our homes. If you have a new puppy or you are welcoming one into your home sometime soon, an outdoor dog kennel can provide a safe and large space for your dog to spend time in the outdoors, keeping them out of harm’s way while still exposing them to new sounds and smells.