COVID-19 Puppy Socialization 101

In this novel and uncertain time, many families find themselves at home with extra time on their hands. We have seen a uptick in new puppy visits since the start of quarantine and want to make sure that anyone who is adopting a new puppy at this time is prepared to deal with their puppy while they are home as well as when life resumes “normalcy”.

Firstly, a new puppy is potentially a decade and a half commitment and should be treated seriously. Puppies need a series of examinations and vaccinations in the first few months and common illnesses and emergencies can mean unforeseen medical expenses. After obtaining your new puppy, be certain to schedule a wellness visit to discuss routine care and consider investing in pet insurance when they are young and healthy to help off-set any unexpected veterinary costs.

At Mount Laurel Animal Hospital, your new puppy will be greeted by a technician at the car and brought inside our clinic. The puppy will receive high value treats (peanut butter, cheese etc.) during their examination, vaccinations and nail trims so that they have positive exposure to the vet clinic, the people that work here as well as veterinary body handling. Normally, we would advise all puppies enroll in our puppy social class during the crucial time for socialization (between 8-14 weeks of age). Since our puppy socials are currently postponed- here are some crucial tips on how to socialize your new puppy during the pandemic:

  1. Demonstrate positive exposure by pairing food, treats and/or toys to different objects, sights, sounds:
    • Surfaces and textures such as yoga mats, hard wood, carpet, plastic containers etc.
    • Off-season clothing items such as hats, winter coats, swim goggles, umbrellas etc.
    • Feed meals while playing YouTube videos of sounds such as cars, trucks, thunderstorms, children playing etc.
  2. Demonstrate positive exposure to body handling by pairing with food/treats/toys:
    • Touch feet, ears, face, teeth, pick up, hold collar.
    • Try allowing them to lick an item (peanut butter/cheese/yogurt) while in the bathtub, being brushed, having nails clipped.
  3. Pair every dog and person the puppy sees on walks/outside the house with a high value treat so the puppy learns a positive emotional response to their presence since we cannot socialize them appropriately in this time of social distancing.
  4. Establish routines with your puppy that mimic what your schedule will eventually be:
    • Place desirable items in crate so puppy can come and go as they please: feed meals, toys etc.
    • Crate puppies EVERY DAY with something positive like a frozen kong treat.
    • Leave puppy alone EVERY DAY while working in another room, going for a drive or a walk. Provide a high value treat or lickable item such as a kong toy.

We are delighted to see your new fuzzy roommate and want to ensure they are set up for success. Please discuss any additional puppy questions with your veterinarian at their appointment.

Author: Dr. Erika Sweigard