Are you aware that the veterinary governing bodies have now advised vets to not start or complete puppy vaccination courses? This is of course due to support the effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, at this time in a puppy’s life where socialisation is essential to raise a well-rounded adult dog, this decision is going to have a significant impact on this generation of puppies being raised now.
PLEASE DON’T PANIC! You can still raise your puppy well; you might just need to be more proactive and plan better than perhaps you would have done before these changes.
You can carry your puppy outside if unvaccinated. Your daily exercise can include your puppy in your arms or use a pushchair or trolley if they are too heavy to carry. Please don’t leave them at home until they are fully vaccinated – you are missing so many opportunities to expose your pup to the world. If there are 2 people in your house, your pup could get outside twice a day and you can walk to different locations to mix up the experiences being seen.
If you cannot leave the house, then you can just open the window and watch the world from a safe place. Or maybe your garden has a view of the outside world and you can still stay a safe distance from anyone that does pass. This is great for getting them used to smells and sounds and other daily noises. I recommend you also download the free sounds track from The Dog Trust website https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/dog-behaviour-health/sound-therapy-for-pets
This you can play in your home and get your puppies used to fireworks, gun shots, livestock and other noises you might not have access to at home.
Socialisation doesn’t have to be about your puppy actually interacting with other dogs and people, it just being around them. So, go on your daily exercise walk, take some tasty food rewards with you (e.g. small pieces of cheese, sausages, chicken) and whenever your pup looks at something ‘new’ give a food reward. Pair these new things with tasty food! Just hang out and let them process what is going on around them. I know you need to give space from other people, but you can stop and have a quick chat (safe distance away) so that your puppy has time to look at them and listen to them – great experience. Same applies to dogs; let your puppy just watch them walk past.
I realise this isn’t ideal and of course there is nothing more fun than seeing your pup romping with others, but at this time this is not possible, so please keep your dog under control so either a short lead or long line (if suitable space to use).
Focus your time at home or on walks (if you can have your pup on the floor) engaging them with fun games, run around together, get them to ‘find it’ and scatter some food on the floor so they sniff and search for their food or find the hidden ball in the grass. This is a perfect time to develop an amazing relationship with your dog, with them thinking you are the best thing in their world!
I often get asked how to stop dogs from being naughty? I hear people say "I tell them off, but they keep doing it anyway". "They know they shouldn't be doing it", or similar themes.
Dog's view the world as what is safe versus what is dangerous. This is why telling a dog off for counter surfing (grabbing things of the kitchen worktops) won't stop the behaviour as they will just learn that they cannot do it when you are present, as this is when it is 'dangerous' and when you are not present it is safe. They don't know your house rules and why wouldn't they try and eat tasty things within reach? If it works - they will keep doing it. As a dog parent, your job is to set up the environment so they don't make mistakes as well as showing them how you want them to behave.
In this example, make sure all worktops are clear (including exciting tea towels) so that any opportunity isn't inadvertently rewarded by your dog grabbing something tasty. You also need to spend time rewarding your dog for keeping their paws on the floor when in this room. A 'settle on the mat' understanding would work really well here. This, however, isn't really what I wanted to focus on.
So why I am so happy that I caught my dog Bria with her paws on the window sill trying to reach a ball?
For me, I was really happy that she was bold enough to do this. I love that she saw what she wanted and tried hard to achieve her goal. She does tend to hold back and not push for example, if her ball goes under the table or the door closes. I want her to be confident and feel she can 'try' and figure out the problem. I want a dog that uses their brain and tries to solve problems as this is a dog that will be much more willing to learn new skills and have confidence in working through problems.
So the next time you catch yourself 'correcting' your dog, think: are you shutting them down? Are you stopping them have the confidence in working through a problem? Should you be more encouraging when your dog tries something new?
I am not suggesting you just let your dog do whatever they choose - this could be dangerous and will probably result in a dog that isn't much fun to live with. However, I would like to encourage you to think that some 'naughty' behaviour as an opportunity to boost confidence and problem solving skills. You just might like the version of your dog that this thought process produces.