Socializing Your Puppy While Social Distancing

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Let’s face it; raising a new puppy is challenging enough on it’s own. Now, however, with a global pandemic changing the course of our every day life, raising a puppy just got even harder. After all, it’s crucial for puppies that are 8-14 weeks of age to be properly socialized to a wide range of experiences in order for them to grow up into confident and well-rounded dogs. But the good news is that even with certain restrictions like social distancing in place, you can still properly socialize your new puppy by following any of the tips and tricks on this list. Times are confusing and uncertain right now for many people and their pets, but we hope that these fun and easy socializing suggestions can help relieve some of the stress for you and your new pup!

1. Create Experiences
During any other time, your new puppy would learn how to interact with the world around them by actually going out and experiencing everything they possibly could. And while some of these experiences are still quite accessible to your puppy, certain things like meeting new people, getting together for puppy playdates, or walking around crowded stores are still being restricted and must be put on hold. Because of this, it’s up to you as your puppy’s new parent to fill in the gaps and make sure they can see and experience as much as possible. Try to think of all the things your pup might come across when out and about and recreate those in your home or neighborhood. For example, wear sunglasses, hats, masks, gloves and other strange clothing when interacting with your puppy. Try opening an umbrella, using a cane, doing a jumping-jack, or riding a bike when your puppy is around. Play certain sounds through your TV or computer like police sirens, motorcycles, or people talking and laughing just so your pup can become familiar with them. Anything you can think of that you know your new furry friend hasn’t come in contact with would be good to try because when it comes to new experiences, your pup can never get too many!

2. Handle Your Puppy as Much as Possible
While veterinary offices and animal clinics are slowly starting to open back up, it’s still important to introduce your new puppy to being handled like they would at a vet clinic as soon as possible. When petting your puppy in a calm state, make sure to rub their ears, paws, and tail to get them used to having those areas touched. Gently take a tissue or cotton swab around their eyes, nose, and mouth and allow them all the time they need to warm up to these new instruments. Take your fingers and pretend to clip their nails or look into their ears and eyes, all while praising them and using a soft, quiet voice to reassure them that it’s safe and fun. This will open the doorway to a more pleasurable experience for your dog while they’re at the vet, especially if you are not allowed inside the building with them at this time. Both your dog and your vet will thank you!

3. Go For a Walk
An oldie but a goodie: taking your new puppy for a walk is still a great way for them to learn to socialize and interact with the world around them. Luckily for both you and your dog, going for a walk during the COVID 19 pandemic can still be fun, interactive, and safe. For the easiest form of social distancing, try taking your pup for a walk through a forest trail or nature preserve where there is plenty of room to roam. Choosing to walk your dog through a small neighborhood or cul-de-sac that is removed from a busy city or town can also be a good choice. Walking your dog during the early morning hours or later at night can also help to reduce the likelihood of bumping into people and will open up some new experiences for your pup like different sights, sounds and smells. Just remember to please wear a mask and stay 6 feet apart… from other humans that is. You and your dog can cuddle as close as you like!

4. Go For a Car Ride
Just like going for walk, going for a car ride can help to stimulate your puppy’s curiosity and allow them to discover new sights, sounds and smells… all from the comfort of your car! Drive your puppy past the beach, or the park, or through a town, all while having the windows down so they can really get those good sniffs in. You can also stop and park your car somewhere so the two of you can enjoy some time together but in a different environment than your pup might be used to. Plus, it helps to get you out of the house and back to a routine.

5. Set Up a Safe Puppy Playdate
It’s very important for your puppy to interact with other dogs while they’re still young so they can practice appropriate play and learn key social interactions. During this time of social distancing, however, this might seem like an impossible task, but with the appropriate precautions it can be done effectively and safely! Set up a playdate for you pup with someone you trust and know well who also has a young puppy or dog. Make sure the playdate is outside with ample space for your pups to play as well as to allow you and your friend an easy 6 feet or more apart to stand. It would also be a good idea for you and your friend to both be wearing face masks and gloves, and to not interact with each others dogs unless necessary. However, once all the formalities are out of the way, your puppy will have the time of their life playing while also learning and getting plenty of exercise. Humans might have to keep their distance but luckily for your pup, dogs can play away! 

It might seem like a challenge to socialize your new puppy during a time when we’re told to physically distance ourselves from others. However, with a few precautions and creative ideas it’s easier than you might think to raise a well-rounded and properly socialized dog. Stay safe and be well!

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