There’s nothing quite like adopting a puppy. They’re soft, fluffy, cute, and pull on our heartstrings from the very beginning. They can soothe our emotions and bring us endless joy with their puppy antics. Raising a puppy is no easy feat at any time, but raising a “pandemic puppy” introduces new and unique challenges. Whether you adopted a pandemic puppy in 2020 or are thinking about doing so in the near future, here are a few behavioral and training challenges you may want to think about before committing to a pandemic puppy.
Pandemic Puppy Socialization
Easily the most challenging aspect of raising a pandemic puppy is adequately socializing them. Dogs have a relatively short window for puppy socialization when they need to be exposed to all sorts of people, things, and situations. When people are required to stay home, social distance, or both during lockdowns, it isn’t easy to properly socialize your dog.
The Importance Of Puppy Socialization
First, exposing our dogs to new and potentially frightening things isn’t about just “seeing what happens.” Proper and adequate puppy socialization entails introducing our pups to new things in a safe, controlled way that ensures a positive experience that will help that puppy build confidence.
5 Pandemic Puppy Activities To Expose
The issue with puppies during a pandemic is that we are limited in our ability to get our pups out and about to experience as much variety as possible. Without these typical experiences, we can end up with adult dogs afraid of everyday things simply because they have never encountered them before. Try your best to expose your pandemic puppy to as many novel things as possible, especially in these 5 categories:
While there are plenty of sounds around your home, there are infinitely more sounds in the wider world. While your puppy may have gotten used to the sound of hairdryers, vacuums, and the AC kicking on, they might miss out on other sounds that might cause issues later, like sirens or other dogs barking. If you can, get your dog out and about in as many places as possible while maintaining social distancing, of course. If you can’t get out for walks, you can try playing various sounds over speakers to acclimate your puppy.
Part of how a puppy explores their environment is through the pads of their feet. Pandemic puppies may not encounter as many types of surfaces as dogs raised outside of quarantine. Yes, your dog has probably encountered carpet, rugs, hardwood, and grass, but have they felt concrete, leaves, gravel, or sand? Just like with sounds, if your pup does not experience these surfaces early on, they may develop a fear or anxiety of harmless surfaces later.
Socializing your puppy with other dogs is incredibly difficult but also essential. Pandemic puppies (and all puppies) who are not socialized with other dogs at a young age can develop severe fear of other dogs and even dog aggression. If there are other dogs in your neighborhood that you know and trust to behave and be gentle with your puppy, then schedule regular meetups, outside if you can, with their owners. Dog parks are an option but are not the best choice since you never know what dogs will be there or how they behave. You can also look into any places offering puppy classes.
Just like exposing your pandemic puppy to other dogs is essential, so too is introducing them to as many other animals as you can. If you have other pets, like a cat, your puppy will get some socialization with other animals right at home. If not, try to find a friend with a cat who gets along with dogs and schedule playdates. Meeting other small pets is essential to your dog learning how to deal with smaller animals gently.
Conversely, your pandemic puppy must also learn to avoid larger animals that could hurt them. Especially if you live in an agricultural area, try to find a way to expose your pup to cows, sheep, horses, etc., so that they develop a healthy wariness of the animals and avoid injury in the future.
No matter how many people live in your home, you must socialize your puppy with as many different types of people as possible. Pups who don’t meet all different kinds of people at a young age can develop fears of people with certain skin colors, shapes, ages, etc., because they are unfamiliar. If, for example, a puppy is never socialized with children and only knows adults, you can end up with an adult dog afraid of children. This fear can manifest as aggression, and a fearful dog might bite a child that gets too close as a result.
This task is arguably the hardest on this list, as we are supposed to stay away from most people during quarantines and lockdowns. However, there are still ways to accomplish this assignment. Outside of those who live in your household, you can allow your puppy access to a window through which they can watch those who walk by. Watch with your puppy and portray positive reactions to those people. You can also take your pup on drives to see, hear, and smell people from the comfort of the vehicle.
Crate Training a Pandemic Puppy
Though you might be spending all your time at home right now, it’s still essential to crate train your pandemic puppy. The reality for most of us is that we will go back to work one day, and we will likely have to leave our dogs at home. Try to incorporate a structured schedule into your day-to-day with your dog. Crate breaks are an essential tool to give your dog alone time and teach them that you aren’t always going to be together. Find more on crate training your puppy here and here. It’s also the most effective way to potty train your puppy.
Should You Get a Pandemic Puppy?
Whether or not you get a pandemic puppy is entirely up to you. Puppies can help relieve some of the stress and anxiety of the pandemic, but raising and socializing a puppy while cut off from much of the world is a unique challenge. If you’re up to the extra effort of ensuring your pup is introduced to enough experiences to create a well-rounded dog, check out Buying a Dog: The What, Where, and How.