To combat the feelings of loneliness that months of isolation tend to cause, many people have adopted new puppies for the sense of comfort and companionship they provide. You may have even gotten a new dog for the kids for Christmas last month. Now, all of a sudden, you find yourself faced with a looming question. “How do I safely socialize my dog while remaining safe by following social distancing protocols?” Well, fear not because we’ve got a few strategies for you to try that will not only allow you to expose your dog to all sorts of situations, but do it safely without exposing yourself or others to potential harm.
Before we start, let’s first clear up a misconception. In socializing your dog, the goal is not to expose your animal to all manner of jarring, or anxiety-inducing situations and loud noises over and over again. That could cause bad behavior, and that is what we are trying to avoid by using socialization techniques. The goal of socialization is to expose your dog to many different smells, and people, and places, and things, and yes loud noises but to do it in a manner that ensures the dog will have a positive reaction. You want the dog to feel safe so that it learns not to be afraid of unfamiliarity it may later encounter, and to reinforce positive behavior with rewards like treats.
Now, how do we do this successfully while staying away from people and other animals? Around the house, take the time to show them different household appliances such as vacuum cleaners, that might make loud noises your dog is not familiar with. Introduce your dog to as many different sights, sounds, and smells as you can. It sounds silly, but many pet experts also recommend playing dress up for your dog, or putting on “costumes” that might be strange or scary to your dog, like tall hats or big coats that might seem threatening. You can also play sound recordings of crowds, or other potentially triggering noises for your dog. It is even possible to socialize your dog from the comfort of your front porch. Simply allow your dog, while on leash, to watch passersby while you sit and enjoy the fresh air and as always, reward them for good behavior to reinforce the socialization.
If you are going crazy inside, and your dog needs an escape you could try taking them in the car for a ride to a busy parking lot, like a grocery store and let them experience the range of different people going into, and coming out of the store. Reward good behavior with positive reinforcement and treats. If you want to go out into the natural world for some socialization, be cautious when doing so. Should you decide to take your dog to the park, go at a time when the number of other people in the park will be at its lowest, or pick a more remote area to walk in.
It is not recommended to visit the dog park during quarantine, but if you do decide to risk it remember to do so safely. Always wear a mask, and sanitize your hands after touching anything. Though some dogs have tested positive for the virus, they are not believed to be at high risk for contracting or spreading it. The danger here is really more so the amount of people who may be present, so if you decide to go, do it when the crowds will be smaller.
Always remember, despite socialization, your dog may still not get along with everybody. You can always tell a person not to interact with your dog. If the thought of this makes you nervous, use this time of social distance to practice saying “No, not at this time, Thank you” without the stigma of seeming rude.
There you go folks, social distancing is hard but it is a necessary precaution we all must take in order to remain healthy. Don’t let social isolation have negative effects on your dog. Make sure that you use these quick, easy tips to introduce your young dog to a wide variety of situations and keep yourself and others safe at the same time.