Prepare your puppy for dog-friendly days out

 

Did your puppy join the family during lockdown? If so, like many others, they won’t have had the opportunity to experience much beyond the home. This is why, whether you’re heading to a pub, restaurant or a local attraction, you need to prepare them for dog-friendly days out. Otherwise, the crowds alongside new sights, sounds and smells, could be overwhelming. 

Ease them in gradually. That way, you’ll help them get used to the change of scenery, away from the quiet, comfort of the homes they have become so used to. Here’s how to do that: 

Prepare your puppy for social settings before leaving the house 

There are, of course, fewer distractions in the home. So, prepare your pup for dog-friendly attractions before you even step foot out of the door.

Teach your puppy to settle

Teach your puppy to settle on a blanket while you are at home. Then, you can take this blanket out and about with you. Once in the dog-friendly place, you’ll be able to lay it out next to you and they’ll have learned to be calm and relaxed on it. 

So, how do you do this? 

  • Put a loose lead on your pup, lay a blanket on the floor and sit on a chair next to it. 
  • Don’t say anything to your puppy and have treats ready to reward their behaviour. 
  • They may not settle immediately. If they don’t, reward them for showing interest in the blanket or standing quietly on or near the blanket.
  • Begin to only reward more relaxed behaviours.
  • As they show more signs of relaxing and start to settle on the blanket, start to decrease the treats. Now the settle will become self-rewarding for your pooch.
  • Once they are settled while on the lead, repeat the process off the lead. 
  • Once they’ve got the hang of it, begin to add distractions, such as someone walking past. Reward your puppy for continuing to settle.
  • If your pup becomes unsettled or gets up, ignore them and wait until they settle again to reward them. If they don’t, increase the distance from the distraction (or make it less interesting.) 
  • Now your puppy knows how to settle, try it in new locations. 

Show your puppy new sights, sounds and smells 

Whether you’re taking your pup to a café or event, it can get very noisy. If your house is particularly quiet, your puppy may feel a bit overwhelmed by the new sounds. But there are ways to help prepare them for it.

You can do this with Sound Therapy recordings. This will help you to expose your pooch to these new noises in a very gradual and positive way. First, make sure you’re in a familiar environment and set up the recording in advance. That way you’ll be certain that it will play at a very low volume.  Before you start, make sure your pup is relaxed or engaged in positive behaviours, such as play.

Then, start to introduce the sound, really quietly at first, so your puppy doesn’t show any signs of fear or anxiety. They should continue enjoying their activity as if nothing happened. Over time you can slowly begin to increase the volume, making sure your pooch is relaxed in every session. If they show any signs of fear or anxiety, turn it off and try again later, starting with a lower volume again. 

Your pup has now heard the new sounds in a controlled way in the comfort of your home. This means the sounds are less likely to be scary when they hear them outside the house for the first time. 

Of course, it’s not just new sounds that your pooch will experience when they are out and about. It’s new sights and smells too. 

You can slowly start to introduce them to these new experiences in the home too: 

  • Provide different surfaces to walk on such as a rubber mat, old rug or bristly doormat. This will help your puppy feel the various textures under their paws. 
  • What will you pup see when they leave the house? Consider everyday items such as umbrellas, bicycles, suitcases, and buggies. Place them one at a time in the room when your puppy is busy with a game or treat. Then let them approach the object in their own time. If they're comfortable, progress to picking up (or pushing around) the object.
  • Try creating various smells around your home including adding scents, such as lavender, to cloths. These can then be scattered throughout different rooms. Just make sure they aren’t too close to their bed or where they eat.

Make sure that your puppy always has a positive experience when you introduce them to new things and keep treats handy so that you can reward them as you go. 

Introduce your puppy to new people   

There are going to be a lot more people around than your pup is used to when you go out. This is why you may want your pooch to get used to meeting new people in your home first, where they are comfortable. 

With a little imagination and a few props, you (or someone helping you) can dress up at home. This will start to prepare them for different people they might meet when out and about. You might put on a be a big hat, wig, high-vis clothing or use a walking stick – whatever you can find.   

Make sure this is a positive experience for your puppy by giving them a treat or toy. If they are not relaxed or happy then stop and try again later. When you do, make sure the person dressing up is further away or looks different, you don’t want to scare them. 

When you start to go out and meet real people, watch for how your puppy responds. Reward them for calm and relaxed behaviour. If you think you are approaching someone that might scare them, ask them to “turn around” in a jolly voice. Move them away but keep it positive and reward them for following. 

Meeting other dogs 

You are likely to see and perhaps meet other dogs when you are out and about. They might just be walking past you or could be settling at a nearby table themselves. 

When you head out, reward your pup for keeping their attention on you and walking on a loose lead. Then, once they're calmly walking on the lead you can start to walk at a distance from other dogs. Keep far enough away that your pup doesn’t get excited or worried and keeps their focus on you. Over time, you can start to walk a bit closer to other dogs and in busier areas. Your dog should feel relaxed when they see another dog but, if not, take it back a step and move further away. 

Travelling with your pooch  

Of course, you have to get to your destination too. Some dogs might have had the chance to get used to travelling in the car during lockdown. But public transport is likely to be a whole new experience for your pooch. Your dog needs to get used to this gradually. Don't expect them to travel happily on a busy train with you first time. 

Skills that will come in useful, include: 

  • Settle 
  • Sit / lie down 
  • Wait 
  • Leave 
  • Getting your dog’s attention  

Planning to take your pooch on a bus, train or the tube soon? Find out more about travelling on public transport with your four-legged friend and watch our basic dog training tutorials

Out and about with your pooch at dog-friendly places 

You’ve prepared as much as you can at home and you’re ready to travel. Now it’s time to go on a day out with the dog and let them experience it all for themselves.

But, before you do, here’s 10 things you need to remember:  

  1. Make sure the place you are heading to is dog-friendly. 
  2. Pack a blanket and treats to help them settle, as well as some water and poo bags. 
  3. Take it slow and ease them in. Go to a dog-friendly restaurant, café or pub at a time you know it won’t be really busy so they can get used to it. Then build up gradually from there.  
  4. If the weather allows, you can start by sitting at a table outside or taking them to a picnic
  5. Encourage them to settle when you arrive. 
  6. Give them a long-lasting treat or a toy to keep them entertained.
  7. Keep an eye on their body language, ensuring that they are comfortable. 
  8. Give them a break. If they are feeling overwhelmed, step outside or away for a short while before returning (this is a good opportunity for a toilet break, too!)
  9. If they’re not comfortable, don’t stay too long – you can increase the time once they become used to it and start to relax.  
  10. Not everywhere is suitable for dogs and sometimes they might be better off left at home. Just make sure you’ve prepared your pooch for spending time alone too. 

Top tip: Don’t forget to also make sure your dog has a collar and ID tag on and that their microchip details are up to date. 

Introduce your pooch to days out slowly. This will make heading to dog-friendly places a more enjoyable experience for both of you. If you need help training your pup, then check out our Dog School and see how it can help.  

Is your dog struggling with any of the above? Whether it’s seeing other dogs from a distance or meeting new people, a qualified behaviourist will be able to support you.