Within the past few years, many puppies have been born and raised during the unprecedented times of the Covid-19 pandemic. This has created a generation of pups who have not been exposed to enough socialization from people or other animals. An unsocialized dog can form anxieties and aggressions that make navigating their day-to-day life difficult. Even dogs born before the pandemic are suffering from a lack of socialization that they were used to before.
Here are a few ways to socialize your dog after the Covid-19 pandemic!
Have One-On-One Playdates
If this is your dog’s first time truly interacting with another furry friend, a one-on-one playdate is the best option. This small, selective interaction can help your dog learn appropriate social behaviour without feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated. Throwing your pup into a fully packed dog park should be avoided at all costs. This can cause extreme excitement and nervousness for your dog, and if your pup has never socialized with others before, they could pick up bad social habits easily from others.
Avoid On-Leash Greetings
The leash inhibits a dog’s natural ability to communicate with another dog physically. Dogs on leash tend to behave very differently than they would off-leash, so while socializing your pups after Covid-19, it’s important to keep practicing your social distancing on-leash. Meeting up with several dogs on your walk might encourage poor leash behaviour like jumping, barking, and pulling. Until your dog has been properly socialized, skip the leash meet-and-greet for now. You can still observe the world together and interact with people and other dogs from a safe distance.
Normalize Mask Wearing
Dogs are visual communicators. They read our faces to help understand our body language and moods. The more you go out into the world with your pup to practice socialization, the more mask-wearing they will be exposed to. A covered face can make a dog feel uneasy and scared. Try taking your dog in front of your home or go to a public park and get them to sit and watch the passersby with you. As people walk by, softly praise your dog, and offer them a reward or treat. Do not reward if they bark or lunge, only if they remain calm and seated.
If your dog continues to react negatively to passersby, creating more distance is recommended. The trick is to get your dog in the presence of their trigger (mask-wearing people), but far enough away that they don’t react. Wait for them to notice a trigger, then immediately present a reward. When they glance at the trigger again, offer another reward. Continue if the trigger is present. Now you can move a tiny bit closer to the trigger and repeat the process. The goal is to slowly reduce the distance between your dog and the trigger until they are within a few feet or less. Keep in mind that you are not trying to distract your dog; you are trying to change your dog’s negative association with people wearing masks.
Another great way to start socializing your Covid-19 pup is to get them a brother or sister. At Copper Canyon Australian Labradoodles, we raise exceptional non-shedding Australian Labradoodle puppies that make wonderful family pets. Adding another furry friend to your family will give your dog some much-needed socialization without them feeling overwhelmed.