Lockdown puppies and training

Lockdown puppies and training

It has been reported that in Britain, 3.2 Million pets were bought during the lockdowns alone. There is a year on year boost of spending on pets but we know Covid was a big factor in the latest figures being so inflated. 2020 saw a spend of nearly 8 Million GBP spent.

Consumer spending on pets and related products in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2005 to 2020 (in million GBP)

So with less opportunity to socialise your dog and take them to proper training classes, how are you supposed to have a well behaved dog in 2022? 

When you do start to venture out with a youngster who’s had next to no socialisation, they’re likely to find it all a bit worrying and may bark at people, other dogs, or moving vehicles, which is no fun at all for either of you!

They key is to start small and accept its going to take time.

Taking the time to allow your puppy to become comfortable with particular situations or experiences will help to ensure that those things (or people!) really have gone from the puppy’s ‘scary’ list to their ‘trusted’ list.

Introduce new things incrementally.

Socialisation doesn’t have to mean formal or forced introductions to new sights and sounds. In fact, sometimes, placing your puppy right into the thick of things can overwhelm them and turn what might have been a positive experience into a negative one. As you explore the world together, the idea is for your puppy to feel comfortable with each new thing, but not necessarily interact with it. This can mean that, especially to begin with, the puppy doesn’t need to be very close to the experience in question.

Let’s take traffic as an example... Your puppy might not have seen cars or motorbikes yet. When it’s time to start going out (in your arms, until vaccinations have been completed, or wearing a properly fitted harness), choose a place to watch vehicles passing where you’re at least 20m away to begin with. Chat to your puppy and be ready to jolly them along if they look worried or seem to flinch or get excitable when a vehicle passes. Have treats and reward your puppy when they look calmly to you for guidance.

Once you’re sure your puppy isn’t finding passing traffic interesting, you can move on to a different experience and come back to traffic the following day, but gradually move closer.

This process is called desensitisation and it just means that we are encouraging the puppy to become less bothered by the world around them.

You may have seen lists of experiences to tick off as your puppy tries and becomes comfortable with them. You can find a great list here that includes lots of different, everyday experiences for you to use as a guide and record your puppy’s reactions. Remember, you don’t have to hurry through lists like this, but they can help to remind us just how many things we expect our dogs to cope with during our lives together!

Your puppy might find some new sights and sounds more difficult to cope with than others. Recent and current social distancing guidelines may mean that certain situations, such as meeting a wide variety of people and animals, especially other dogs, might be more challenging to progress with than others.

Remember, take things as slowly as you need to and always keep within current guidelines regarding social distancing. You can still make progress and, as long as you go at your puppy’s pace, you can work on being closer to unknown dogs and people later on.

Stay calm and in control

If your puppy does get upset and begins to bark or lunge, try not to get cross with them.

It’s only natural to show other people that you don’t approve of your dog behaving like this towards them, but it will only make your dog more worried if you tell them off for showing that they’re uncomfortable with something.

Instead, reach for a valuable reward, or even better still, have that ready when you know you’ll be passing someone or something that your dog isn’t yet happy about, and distract your puppy while keeping on moving.

Once they’re behaving calmly again, give them a cheerful ‘Well done!’ and another reward for calm walking.

Rewards and motivators

t’s a great idea to find out what your puppy considers a reward. Not all pups are motivated by food – some prefer toys – and not all toys were created equally! By taking out a variety of small-bite food rewards and toys, you’ll be able to reward your pup for calm reactions to new sights and sounds and distract them with a game if you spot any signs they are getting worried or fixated on a particular experience.

For puppies who are motivated by food, you can chop up tiny pieces (no bigger than the fingernail on your little finger) of mild cheddar or cooked chicken. You can use some of the puppy’s allocated daily food ration for puppies who think anything edible is marvellous.

Paws & Country give you plenty of choice – there are edible treats that are specially designed for puppies, and you can have a look at all the toys. Some puppies love tuggy-toys (keep any tugging really gentle to protect little necks and teeth); others think squeaky toys are the best thing ever! If you find squeakers a bit much, you can even get ones that oink gently and still please puppies just as much!

When you’re doing any kind of training, including desensitisation training and socialisation, it’s good to take along rewards of different value to the puppy, just in case you need something really special to reward a particularly calm reaction to something, or in case you need a powerful distraction to something unexpected or that particularly worries your puppy.

You’ll want to keep ‘average’ value rewards for most of the training, or some puppies become so excited by the reward that they forget to pay any attention to what they’re supposed to be learning about!

 

We hope this has been helpful.

Enjoy your puppies. Happy new year

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