COVID-19 Socialization Ideas
Updated: Mar 27
Things are a bit different everywhere you look right now and this has changed the way we can socialize our puppies for the time being. Here are a few ideas to help you through as this passes. It is SUPER important to introduce your puppy to new things every day. We want to see your puppy gain the ability to experience something new, possibly startle, then adjust and move on with life. We call this effective socialization - where experiences are neutral or positive to our puppies. Here are some ideas you can implement during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Focus on building a bond with your puppy. It is important your puppy learns to trust you and every member of your family. Play impulse control games together (see PAWSfit games), engage everyone in short training sessions, practice learned behaviors in every room of your home as well as in your yard outside.
Dress Up Time
Right now it is difficult to meet people who look differently than you so...pull out the Halloween costumes and get creative! Wigs, capes, gloves, masks, hats, goggles, crutches, canes...whatever you can find to look differently.
Puzzles, obstacle courses, scent games, shaping tasks (Hot & Cold game), hide and go seek, find, etc. are all great ways to help socialize your puppy to new challenges. See our PAWSfit section for ideas. The "Come" Lesson in Unit 2 has games you can play, as well as Lesson 3.12 "Find."
Play sounds like thunder, dogs barking, sirens, cars, people talking. Start on a low volume and work to louder volumes as your puppy feels comfortable. Play your puppy’s favorite game while the sounds are being played to help them make positive associations.
Drive to places where people aren’t gathering. Parks, trails, school yards - find empty outdoor spaces and let your puppy explore. If your puppy is not fully vaccinated, carry them but let them get outside of their home area to experience the world! Seeing & hearing is fine for now as touching is questionable.
This is also a great time to practice good manners if you do see people. It’s healthy for puppies to learn they should not run up to a person for attention. We prefer instead a sit to be greeted. We can use this time to practice seeing people from a distance and helping our puppies sit calmly by our side. By not letting them go up to people, they learn not to expect that interaction.
Night & Shadows - This is something often overlooked when socializing our puppies. How does your puppy respond to seeing a shadow at night? Spend time outside after dark and play a favorite game with your puppy. If they notice a shadow moving and seem hesitant, sprinkle some food rewards on the ground for them to sniff out and eat. The sniffing relaxes them and will help create positive associations with the shadows.
Handling & Grooming
Spend time really getting your puppy comfortable with touching their ears, paws, tail, head and body. Acclimate them to brushing, clipping nails, cleaning teeth, wiping ears and settling. Have everyone in your family take turns as it is one thing for them to let you do it, but are they ok with others doing these things?