Socialising your Dog again after lockdown
Yippee! We are starting to see life returning to (the new) normal after months and months of endless Covid lockdown. And as we ease ourselves back into our busy, bustling lives, it's helpful to consider our dog's socialisation and how we can help them adjust back to normal life.
Many puppies and younger dogs may never have experienced life without COVID and haven't had the usual opportunities dogs have to learn socialising skills. It's important to support them in meeting new people, new dogs and feeling comfortable in busy and unfamiliar surroundings.
Our own dog was rescued 2 weeks before the first lockdown and it was her first experiences of getting out and about that reminded me of how we all need to help and support our dogs through this process.
Do share how you get on with your own dogs...
Socialising again after lockdown for older dogs:
Dogs that were well socialised before lockdown will probably cope quite well when life returns to normal, providing introductions are made gradually and not all at once. Take time to consider what you have planned and consider which of the events to take your dog to as well.
For the last year or more, your dog has seen fewer faces, experienced less social activity and probably played with less dogs when out on a walk. They've gotten used to spending time solely with you, their immediate family, in the safe and quiet confines of the home, where the pace of life is slower and generally more relaxed. They are likely now not used to people calling to your house either.
Now, as restrictions are lifting and life is regaining its usual momentum, you may find your dog getting anxious or overly excited, in a way they never were before.
This is to be expected and can be easily managed providing the reintroductions are gradual. Taking your dog to the park and letting them off-lead around other dogs may be too much too soon if they are not used to this and are showing signs of anxiety or over excitement. If you do too much too soon it could result in some naughty behaviours. For some even just approaching other dogs on lead while you stop and have a chat with the owners is also likely to cause over-excitement and even frustrated on-leash behaviours.
One great step forward it to plan in some 121 meets with friends or family dogs. Ideally this would be in a garden where both animals are contained and in a more relaxed and familiar setting. Both can be off lead and allowed to get to know each other safely. Reward calm and obedient behaviour and pay close attention to your dog's general mood and body language.
As they become used to the presence of other people again, you may start to think about heading out, either to a pub garden for a drink or a busier public space to run errands. Only take your dog if you are confident the experience won't be too stressful and you can continue to meet their needs while on-the-go. If heading to a pub garden, for example, take a soft blanket for your dog to lie down on in the shade, as well as some toys and distraction aids to keep them entertained and comfortable. Taking some calming treats with you can also help if they start to display signs of anxiety.
By doing these steps for short periods of time initially, your dog should adjust bit by bit until you can then consider doing more and for longer periods at a time. In no time after this you should not have to consider whether to take them with you - they'll just want to come!
Socialising after lockdown for young dogs and puppies:
If you got a new puppy during lockdown (or just before), then the usual methods of socialisation wouldn't have been possible. As much as your puppy is settled with you and the life they know as normal, they have missed out on social opportunities such as puppy classes and visits to the pub! Puppy classes are essential for a dog's development and sociability. Meeting people when out and about would usually be a great way of getting them used to new interactions and what normal life looks like. Of course with COVID, none of this has been able to happen consistently.
As you are able to get out and meet up with people, try to involve your dog as much as you can, but don't rush it! Your dog is new to socialising as we know it and will need time to adjust to maintain their calm and happy nature. Aim to keep trips out short initially and allow them space and distance to allow them to build confidence around new people. Stick to 121 meet ups initially, rather than big groups of dogs. Try to take walks in your local area to include different sights, scents and sounds. A different walk in a busier place will help them adjust little by little. As with the older dogs keep training treats close by to reward positive behaviours whilst out and about.
When puppy classes are running again, take your dog along! They really are a great investment and most puppies brought home during the pandemic will still be of an age to really benefit from them.
Hopefully your dog will already be making great strides with its training having spent so much time with you over the last year, so classes are a great way to build on this and make further progress. Especially on skills such as socialising and recall with distractions. Recall in your own garden is somewhat different to recall with another 6 dogs running around! Depending on your dog make sure you have treats or their favourite toy to hand to help.
We'd love to hear how you are getting on with your dog whilst they adjust to our new normal so do drop us a line!