How to socialise your dog during isolation.

At-home ideas to help your new pet

As Government authorities and health officials continue to stress the importance of staying home during these difficult times, it can be a challenging task to help provide your new puppy or dog with opportunities to help set them up for life. As we stay at home, our new pets may have limited ability to be exposed to scenarios that they would have had prior to this crisis. To help new pet owners during these uncertain times, we have listed some of our favourite ideas to help you socialise your new puppy during times of quarantine and self-isolation.

Across the country there has been an increase of adoptions as many look to bring a furry friend into their homes for companionship. It is important to remember that pet ownership is a long-term commitment that shouldn’t be made on a whim or during a temporary situation. If you are considering a new pet, be sure to do your research on whether this is the best thing for you and your family when your standard way of life resumes later on. Am I really ready for a new pet? 

Socialising a new puppy or dog is already a tough task without the added difficulty of trying to achieve this at home and new puppy owners face the biggest challenge as they attempt to do this during a puppy’s critical socialisation period. This is an an important developmental period for your young pet and during this time, your puppy should be introduced to as many experiences as possible to help them be the best dog they can be later in life. New experiences such as meeting different people, other dogs and animals, noises and surfaces are just some of the things new puppies should be exposed to.

If you have adopted an older dog, efforts should still be made to help your dog adjust to their new way of life in a positive and encouraging way. We recommend you speak to the place where you adopted your pet to discuss your dog’s individual needs.

So how do you do socialise your pup at home?

Are you up for the challenge? With some innovation and our handy tips, your new pup might not miss out after all! While it is true that it is almost impossible to replicate the exposure your pup would have had in normal times, you may just find that your home is full of items suitable to help you socialise your new pup – even in these unusual times.

Remember with any new pup (or recently-adopted pet), it is important that you do not overwhelm your pet and that socialisation and training should be done in a positive and patient manner. Do not flood your new puppy with experiences that could be detrimental to their development. Instead, aim to keep training sessions short and with plenty of fun toys and yummy treats nearby. Let’s get started!

Noises in the home

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that most of us are spending more time at home. What sounds can you find around the house? How about these strange noises:

  • Vaccuum cleaner
  • Drill and other power tools
  • Washing machine
  • Lawn mower
  • Microwave
  • Dishwasher
  • Hair-dryer
  • Plates and cutlery
  • TV and radio
  • Fans

Different surfaces

Be sure to include a range of unusual surfaces in your socialisation to help your new pup learn a variety of different textures under their feet. Do you have these at home:

  • Towels and blankets
  • Paper or newspaper
  • Rocks and mulch
  • Carpet and rugs
  • Cardboard
  • A raised platform like a sturdy box
  • Pillows
  • Tiles or concrete
  • Bedding
  • Foil

What are you wearing?

Just like us, dogs have their own quirks and idiosyncrasies and it can be surprising to learn what clothing items some dogs may find strange or scary. Have lots of yummy treats available and wear some of these items around your new pup:

  • Raincoat or big jacket
  • Helmet
  • Hat
  • Boots
  • Bathrobes
  • Sunglasses
  • Gloves
  • Long Dress
  • Poncho
  • Overalls or protective gear

Items around the home

What items around the home can you introduce to your new pup? Here are some suggestions:

  • Suitcases and luggage
  • Bicycle
  • Skateboard
  • Umbrella
  • Buckets
  • Plastic bags
  • Brooms and mops
  • Cane or large stick
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Hoses

Different handling and touch experiences

Having your pet feel comfortable with being touched and handled is one of the most important things you can teach your new pet, especially if they need to be groomed or when they visit the vet later on. Aim to spend a few minutes each day helping your pet learn to relax when being touched. You can practice:

  • Touching their paws and legs
  • Inspecting and gently holding ears
  • Touching their tummy and underneath
  • Touching their tail and being close to their hind legs
  • Putting on a dog collar and being near their neck
  • Putting on a lead (and releasing from a lead)
  • Using a harness
  • Using a dog coat
  • Gently opening their mouth and looking at teeth
  • Giving them a bath and using a towel
  • Brushing
  • Nail-trimming

Other sounds

Your home may be quiet right now, however it is important to try and introduce as many sounds as possible to your new pet for when they may eventually hear them in real life. There are some great apps and videos available to help you provide odd sounds to your new pup. Simply use Google or YouTube to find a range of sounds to introduce to your new pet. Our favourites are:

  • Babies crying and children playing
  • Crowd noises (stadiums)
  • Motorcycles and cars
  • Trucks and other large vehicles
  • Thunderstorms
  • Fireworks
  • Birds
  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Other types of animals (farm, wildlife)
  • Garbage bins

Training ideas

If you have some extra time, now is the pawfect opportunity to teach your new pup or dog some new things to make them the best dog they can be. It’s a great way to help them learn new skills, combat boredom and help build your new relationship. Here are our favourite ideas, but don’t be limited to just these:

  • Learn loose-leash walking (try different areas inside and outside the home)
  • Find treats in hidden spots (use boxes or plastic cups)
  • Learn how to ‘stay’ and ‘come’ (lots of great YouTube videos if you need help)
  • Learn how to use a crate
  • Learn name and teach focus games (you will need plenty of yummy treats!)
  • Teach ‘sit’ and ‘drop’ on different surfaces
  • How to be comfortable in a car (we recommend you turn the car engine on even if you don’t leave the driveway)
  • Teach your new pet to spend some time alone each day (critical if you don’t usually work from home!)
  • Drop items near your puppy intentionally (like clothing or a wallet) to help them experience sudden noises
  • Take your new pet for a walk around the neighbourhood, ensuring they receive lots of yummy treats if they see a person or another dog

These are just some ideas to help you socialise your new pet during these difficult and extended periods of isolation. We encourage you to try and do as much as possible with your pet to help them be ready for when your life gets back to normal. And don’t forget to constantly reward your new pet.

Need more suppawt with your new pet during isolation? Check out this great podcast by Dr Kat Gregory and Dr MJ Starling on some more tips and advice on how to socialise and enrich your pet during COVID-19 social isolation.

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