Yay puppies! Oh no. No puppy class and mandated quarantine. 🙁
For so many reasons, this international virus is uber concerning. And if you have a puppy, your goals of getting them out into this world have been put on hold during the most crucial period of their lives.
Let us help you with a tiny little part of your fret with some ideas. Being a good teacher means you can step out of the box and pull things out of your giant toolbox of goodies. Let’s dig into the toolbox together and find some ideas.
In week one of our Puppy Einstein we talk about looking ahead at your puppy’s life and preparing them for what life will look like for them. Recall that socialization doesn’t fully mean being SOCIAL, it means becoming socially stable. New and positive experiences create confident and stable puppies. This means so much of what you do with them NOW will help them deal with whatever this beautiful life will throw at them.
Let us begin.
Grooming / Husbandry / Handling
This is so important, so I made it number one. Let’s create situations in which your little nugget loves to be brushed, bathed, foofed, trimmed and dried. To create a pup that likes to be handled during grooming sessions, let’s make the PLACE your pup will be groomed an awesome place to be. Put them on that ottoman, grooming table, workbench or rug and make it rain treats many times before you ever introduce a grooming tool. When you puppy wants to go to that place on their own (and not a moment before), we can begin to build a repertoire for what grooming or handling would look like.
The next step once the puppy is going to the place that you are going to do these tasks ON their own accord, is to start pairing a brush/comb/ear cleaner with a fabulous treat. I like to use a Lick Mat and pair the tool with something like spray cheese, peanut butter or canned dog food spread on the mat. As you introduce the brush (etc.), good stuff is available on the mat to lick. The moment that tool goes away, the food does also. And tiny little increments of forward motion. And sometimes you need to go back. But start here!
Think ahead to what kind of people you would like your puppy to be comfortable around. Puppies may be scared by people that do not look like you, walk like you, talk like you or wear things like you. People in large hats, people with a staggering gait while they walk, loud people, medical equipment like canes and wheelchairs, large jackets, helmets….the list is endless. By slowly allowing your puppy to explore you wearing these things they gain confidence knowing that these periphery items on a human are no reason to be frightened.
It is SO important not to scare them while they are exploring these new things. Allow your little one to come up to you in their own time. Sit still, and let them smell and be curious. If they will eat, offer them a treat that you toss away from you as you are wearing these new things.Toss the treat away from you, and see if they are confident enough to come back to you. Be creative, dig in that old trunk, pull out your old wedding dress…go nuts with this one.
Backyard Puppy Playground
Building resiliency is achieved by allowing problem solving in puppies. We can help them to do this by giving them opportunities to use their body in new ways. Your backyard (or basement or living room or bedroom) is a great place to begin.Be generous with your treats! Some good obstacles that you can create at home are:
- Broomstick Step Over: Lay all the brooms you have in the house on the floor and encourage your pup to walk over them. We are never forcing them, as much of the time they just need to smell, see and feel what these obstacles are all about.
- Feet Up: Encourage your pup to put their front paws on anything! Keep the obstacles that you are asking them to step up onto to the height of your pup’s elbow. Do this on multiple different things to see if they remember how to do this. Use a food lure to see if you can encourage them to step up. Use lots of treats and encouragement. And try differing safe surfaces.
- Under Stuff: Remember that fort you made out of sheets? Yep, head back to your single digit age, and build it again. Can your puppy go in it? Can they go through it? Can they go through it and push the fabric to go through? Can they find you in the fort when you play hide and seek?
- A Box: Oh, so much fun can be had with that cardboard box in your house. Can your puppy go IN it? Climb out of it? Climb on it and smush it? Can they put two front paws in? Just two back paws in? How about two paws in one box and two in another? Who knew recycling was so much fun?
Be creative, but remember that heights to climb and jump are not good ideas for puppies of this age. Start very small, and encourage small steps.
Having family friends over that are in your circle to meet and interact with your new pup is a great way to meet people in your home where it’s safe. It is always recommended for your pup to be allowed to approach the person on their own time. Forcing your puppy to do ANYTHING is not allowing them to develop a skill set and confident attitude towards the unknown.
I LOVE this one! Can you take your pup to a brand new place where there are no people and no other dogs? Find an empty field, a friend’s rural land, a big empty lot, or an unused trail and let your puppy explore on their own accord. Put a long line on them (an extra long leash that is 10 to 20 feet) and just walk behind them. Let your puppy use that newly found sense of smell to EXPLORE! Watch them, listen to them smell, and encourage them to be a DOG. It’s quite amazing to watch how scent takes them in a path we cannot see.
This is so important to develop that puppy brain by letting them do what they are built to do to learn about the world – to smell! The most important part of this exercise is that the puppy makes the rules. They get to stop and smell wherever they want. Just let them guide you. You are just the handler of the leash. It’s pretty cool to watch them explore the world with their noses. Remember that observation is the keenest sense you will develop as their teacher, and this is a good time for you to develop your observation skills of your puppy.
Go forward and explore! Your puppy’s resiliency depends on your creativity during these unknown times.
Be well my friends,