While the human world adjusts to a new normal that we are all struggling with, we need to carefully examine, analyse and figure out how this is going to affect our dogs.
Hopefully in the main part they will be enjoying a lot of time with their families at home, going for a decent walk every day and having lots of mental stimulation with their family around them. Yes, we need to be sure that they don’t get so used to someone being with them the whole time that we create separation anxiety problems, but their characters, fears and worries are in the main part already set.
What can we do to help puppies whose critical development periods will be played out under social restrictions, and whose fears will be formed by anything they have not experienced whilst everyone is isolated at home?
The first thing to do is understand that these periods are called critical for a reason. They will not be put off until better times, and they will affect the dog for the rest of their lives. So, we need to do the best we can with what we have, and work hard to cover as much as possible.
Important things to remember are:
- Surfaces: Different feelings underfoot are really useful in getting them to generalise all sorts of different surfaces. Remember wobbly surfaces are just as important for proprioception!
- Clothing, hats, scarfs and glasses! Get dressed in lots of different types of gear, suitable for all the different seasons, and have some fun! Even fancy dress costumes will help your pup to get used to all sorts of different people. Include props such as rucksacks and umbrellas.
- Animals – do some research or ask around to see what sort of different livestock and domestic animals are grazing in your local area where you can safely exercise. Try to make these ‘boring’ for your dog, and yourself as interesting as possible. Please remember that livestock may have their young with them at this time of year, and dogs should be on leads around them at all times. Pups should not be encouraged to be excited by these animals, they should be helped to find them boring.
- Allow your puppy to watch the world from a safe distance. Its actually great for them that strangers can’t get too close! They will not get used to being able to jumping up at everyone they meet!
- Introduce novel items as often as possible! Allow them to be startled and recover (not become afraid!!) and see new things, even though their environment doesn’t change.
Most importantly – Train your dog to be happy to be left alone! Suddenly being left alone at the end of isolation is a sure way of giving your dog separation anxiety, please follow a training protocol to support your puppy in this extremely important life skill.