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Lockdown Advice: Introducing your puppy to the world around them

If you’ve recently got a new puppy, you may wonder how to give them the best start to life during these times.

The first four months of a puppy’s life are vital. It’s when they learn about ‘normal life’ and work out what to make of all the new people and things they experience.

It's important that they learn about everyday life in a positive way.

Problems can arise where these early experiences don’t match what happens as they get older. Dogs are more likely to worry about things that they didn't come across when they were young.

And this might be a problem for puppies arriving in new homes during this time.

Because, once the lockdown ends, what we'll think of as a return to 'normal' life could be new and confusing for your pup.

It's a good idea to do some work now to prepare your pup for life after lockdown.

Here are some tips to help.

  1. Your puppy needs to feel relaxed and confident to be left by themselves. Teaching this while we're all staying home means they won’t struggle when everyone returns to school or work.

    It’s normal for puppies to feel worried about being alone. Dogs are social animals after all.

    So it's vital to teach your puppy that being separated from their family is okay.


    If they don’t learn this, they're more likely to develop unwelcome behaviours, such as barking or destruction, when home alone later.

    The first step is to show that it’s perfectly normal to be away from you in the house.

    Use child gates, indoor kennels or play pens to establish short periods apart. It's best if these periods come after a play session and the puppy has been outside to toilet.

    Some puppies manage this without any problems.

    Others may worry about being separated even momentarily. If that's the case with your puppy, you'll need to do this slowly.

    Top tips for teaching your puppy to cope alone:

    • Make sure your puppy has a comfy bed or den, where they can relax in peace.
    • Give them something fun to occupy them, such as a long-lasting treat or puzzle toy.
    • While your puppy is enjoying their treat, take a couple of steps to the other side of the room. If your puppy stays where they are, wait a moment, then go back and reward them with an extra treat.
    • Increase the distance you move away and the time you wait before returning with the extra treat.
    • You should soon be able to leave the room and close the door or gate.
    • Progress to spending more time in a different room. Build this into the daily routine.
    • It's important that your puppy remains relaxed. If they show signs of distress, leave them for a shorter period, or don’t move as far away, next time.

    Once you've mastered this, you can start to get them used to you leaving the house.

    Begin by going outside the front door and returning straight away.

    If pup stays relaxed, you can build up the time that you're outside.

    This will leave them well-prepared when the time comes for you to return to work or school.

    Watch our video on preventing separation anxiety.

     

  2. Things are much quieter than usual right now. This makes it a good time to prepare your puppy for the noises they’ll hear in post-lockdown life.

    We recommend using these Sounds Therapy recordings

    Puppies that are gradually exposed to noises during early life are more likely to cope with unusual sounds later.

    • Introduce sounds while your puppy has something enjoyable, such as a treat or chew. Play the recordings at such a low volume your puppy doesn’t react at all.
    • Increase the volume each time, with repetitions at each stage. Make sure your puppy remains relaxed.
    • If your puppy shows any signs of fear, turn the sound off immediately. Start at a lower volume next time.

    You can also get your puppy used to outside sounds by opening the front door and taking them to the entrance.

    If you have a garden, go outside when a neighbour is mowing their lawn to introduce that sound.

     

  3.   

    Try and develop a routine of mealtimes, exercise, play, and training sessions, but make sure it’s not too rigid so your puppy is used to some flexibility – important when we go back to work . It’s also important to get your puppy used to being left alone.

    It's essential to give your puppy plenty of time to rest throughout the day. No matter how tempting it is to play with them all the time while the family are at home.

    Make sure your puppy has a cosy bed or den area of their own, where they can rest undisturbed. Check that children know to not approach the puppy when in their own space.

    Puppies also need to learn to play with their toys by themselves. Make sure you reward them with attention and praise when they pick up their own toys to chew or play with.

    Teaching your puppy to ‘settle’ is also an important skill, so they know to relax when people are busy.

     

  4. A big part of everyday life for dogs is meeting new people, when out on walks or when visitors come to their home.

    You can recreate this for your puppy now, with a bit of imagination.

    This is the ideal time to introduce your puppy to the doorbell. Teach them to go to their bed or another room when the bell rings. This will be helpful when visitors arrive in the future.

    You can have great fun introducing them to how different people might appear. Try on different outfits around the home. Get into a big hat or a wig. Introduce things like walking sticks or high-vis clothing if you have them.

    This will broaden your puppy’s experiences and get them used to items they might see when they do go out.

    Make sure this is a positive experience for your puppy by giving them something enjoyable to do. As long as they are relaxed and happy, give them a treat or a toy for them to chase.

    It’s very important not to scare your puppy, so take things slowly. Stop if your puppy starts to look worried or moves away.

  5. People do a lot of different things when handling dogs. We pick them up, clean paws, examine ears, cut nails and groom coats.

    Puppies need to learn that all these are OK.

    Start by gently handling your puppy on parts of their body they’re comfortable with.

    Only touch your puppy for a few moments to begin with. Increase the length of time you spend holding or stroking them. Stop if your puppy shows any sign of worry.

    Move on to handling other parts of their body, such as their ears, tail and paws. If they’re calm and relaxed, give them a treat after removing your hand.

    You want to be able to handle different parts of your puppy’s body without worrying them. Watch your puppy’s body language to look for signs that they aren’t comfortable.

    Once you can touch them all over, you might want to introduce grooming equipment to your puppy.

    Start by placing the brush onto your puppy’s body for a moment, removing it and giving them a treat if they are calm and relaxed. If they’re worried, stop and go back to touching just with a hand.

    Continue with the process as you did when introducing handling.

    Remember to practise touching your puppy’s collar. Again, gradually increase the time you can hold it while giving your puppy a treat.

    Help your puppy get used to having their collar taken off and on, associating it with play or treats. You can also introduce a harness very gradually once they are happy being handled around the head, neck and chest.

  6. Early life is an important time for puppies to learn how to communicate with other dogs. This is tricky right now, but you can start introducing the sight, sound and smell of other dogs at a distance.

    If your pup has had their full vaccination course, you can take them out of the house as part of your daily exercise.

    Reward your pup for keeping their attention on you and walking on a loose lead.

    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.

    If your puppy has not had all their vaccinations, you can carry them to introduce them to the outside world.

    Speak to your vet too. They may arrange a vaccination appointment if they consider it essential.

    Otherwise they'll advise you on the risks and benefits of taking your puppy out.

    It's important that your puppy meets with other dogs as soon as possible after the lockdown to catch up on this part of their early learning.

  7. You can do some basic training with your puppy at home by following our training videos.

    Remember to keep sessions short and fun.

    Now is a good time to introduce your pup to walking on a loose lead around the house or garden.

    The same goes for training them to come back when called – starting at home means there is no distraction and you’re setting your pup up to succeed.

    Good puppy prep starts at home. Have fun.

  8. Puppies will encounter lots of objects and experiences that they need to see as normal. This will enable them to grow into confident adults.

    Introduce them to:

    • Different surfaces to walk on such as a rubber mat, old rug or bristly doormat. This will help your puppy feel different textures under their paws. Reward them with tasty treats.
    • Objects they might see when they leave the house. Wipe any objects you bring in from outside with disinfectant first.
    • Everyday items such as umbrellas, bicycles, suitcases, and buggies. Pace them in the room when your puppy is busy with a game or treat. Let them approach the object in their own time. If they're comfortable, progress to picking up, or pushing around, the object.
    • Smells around your home. Make things interesting for them by adding a touch of scent, such as lavender, to a blanket or toy.
    • Your vacuum cleaner or hairdryer. Do this while it's switched off at first. Then switch it on. Once your pup is calm with this, start to move it around, first with then sound off and then on.
    • Your car on the driveway. Get them used to climbing in and out, wearing a safety harness, and the sound of the engine starting.

     

    Your puppy should always have a positive experience when introduced to new things.   


  9. It’s important to provide dogs with a variety of activities to exercise their bodies and minds.

    These mental and physical activities can prevent boredom, build confidence, and teach skills.