A dog that doesn’t understand another dog’s body language or signals, a dog that doesn’t know how to play, a dog that is under-socialised, is a dangerous dog!
The above will become clearer, by the end of this post.
2020 and 2021, have been years like no other, and have impacted every single person on the planet. With the world changing so dramatically and drastically, this will undoubtedly affect all of our pets. One thing that we have seen a dramatic increase in, is people bringing a new puppy into their home. In this blog, I want to talk about how your new puppy has been impacted by Covid, how it will affect them in the future, and things you may need to be aware of. As many existing puppy owners will know, it can be challenging bringing up a puppy at the best of times. You would think being at home more would have its benefits such as, you’re home more to catch them doing the toilet inside, you’re with them more to catch them chewing, you’re around much more, presenting yourself as a continual target for their teeth! Oh, the joys! But seriously, there will be some benefits of you being around them more due to lockdown, such as having a stronger relationship, the speeding up of training, not having to worry about where they are or what they’re doing, when you’re at work, and so on. Although these benefits along with others, are of course great, unfortunately the Covid side-effects and knock-on effects, will overshadow these benefits I feel in the long run. Every dog owner should know, that socialising your new puppy with what’s in this world, should be your absolute main priority for several weeks and months, from the moment your puppy arrives. All training, although is important, falls behind the need to socialise your dog with the world we live in. The problem with that is this. This current world, isn’t the world that we live in, so how do we socialise them to it? Socialising, environmental training, familiarisation, desensitisation, are all things that would have happen naturally in time, with patience, lots of positive exposure and experiences, as well as a gradual introduction to the busy world. The world has been on hold for over 12 months now, but your new puppy has continued to develop, & could now be anything from six months to 14 months, dependent on when you got them in lockdown. So, how has Covid impacted your new puppy?
For a start, guests calling to the home have been cut right back to the bare minimum, if anything! This means not only has your dog not got use to people coming up your drive, ringing the doorbell, or coming into the home, but also moving around the home. The obvious ones, like the right age socialising, and all-important play and learning experiences, that will shape our puppy for life with both humans and dogs. It’s difficult enough for a new puppy owner, to make sure your puppy gets not just enough socialising, but the right type of socialising. With pretty much every avenue of this being made impossible, even if your puppy was to miss two or three weeks of this, in important development periods, it’s going to have a huge impact on their adult life, and not for the better. So, if they have missed many many months of this, for some dogs, it’s already shaped their behaviour for life. Some of you may have gone a year or more now, with little to no interactions with people or dogs, and for those of you who this would apply to, when the world does return to its normal self, it will be your dogs that will struggle the most to adapt to this change.
You have actively, in every aspect of your life for over 12 months, avoided, not allowed, and not been allowed opportunities, for your dogs to meet and greet, or play and interact with literally everything. When everything changes, your dog may find it hard to adjust, to people now coming into their home or going into others, meeting people in town or on walks, or being put or even pressured into a greeting they might not want, as they know little about what it is they are greeting and why would they, they have only seen them at a distance at best. Even being put into new environments, as restrictions ease could be a struggle.
Dogs that have never been into an area outside of their usual 4 places, may also really struggle. Being taken into town, or the beach, or even just a new walking route, some dogs may not simply have the confidence to tackle this new area, as they haven’t ever walked anywhere outside of the 4 places they usually go. It’s not just people and dogs that your dogs won’t be used to hearing, seeing, smelling or being around, but vehicles, traffic, crowds, parties, people calling or staying over, the busy high street and so on. If you’re returning back to work, then this will also be a massive adjustment for your puppy, who may have seen you every day for the last 15 months. Imagine, the family one day without notice, just vanished back to school and work, after 15 months of being with them every single day! Your dog won’t know if they are coming back, or where they have gone, and things they once saw and did every single day, have now been stopped or changed. This will be a huge shock to your puppy. One in three dogs suffer from some form of separation anxiety (stress), and is often brought on by a change in a routine or schedule, which this most definitely would be. Confidence is such a huge part of a dog, and with your dog not being used to so many sounds and situations that Covid has made impossible, along with their human family returning back to work and spending less time with them, many puppies that were used to this and that are now adult dogs, are going to really struggle with this world changing adjustment. This will impact every aspect of their lives, and they will have no idea why this has happened or how to deal with it. At some point, the world is going to return back to normal. Dependent on your dog, their confidence, how much you have prepared them for the eventuality of you returning to work, the alone time, the opportunities you have provided in regards to expos
ure environmentally over the last 15 months, will all determine how well your dog will adjust to the change. Although Covid has impacted us all, there are and has been, plenty of ways to prepare your dog for this. From making the conscious effort every day in training to not be with them 24/7, to walking them in as many different areas as possible within the guidelines, actively seeking busy areas such as Tesco, or busy parks, not just walking down your quiet dead-end road. Confidence building exercises, as well as proactive training, there is plenty that could have been done to prepare your dogs. Also, in the short periods that the restrictions have been lifted, making the most of guests calling round to the home, your puppy staying with a friend overnight or through the day, as well as setting up play dates and walks with friends, and plenty of real-world exposure. Honestly, only time will tell on the severity of the impact Covid has had on new puppies. Of course, it won’t just be new puppies that have been impacted by this, but all dogs, but with older dogs who are already experienced with however many years of real-world hustle and bustle, they will have already experienced life before Covid, so may adjust slightly better. With new additions since March 2020, they would have had little to no, real-world exposure. Personally, with the difficulties of socialising a puppy without covid, which needs to be progressive, positive, and that meets the needs for development, this can be difficult enough for your average dog owner, without the whole world being in lockdown. But to be able to have regular contact with any dog, not just the right age dog, then to maintain those experiences and interactions, along with a regular flow of different dogs, to maintain social skills and doggie etiquette, has been made impossible. I do feel many puppies have missed out and will struggle through no fault of the owners, when the world returns back to normal. Of course, some puppies will adjust to this better than others, and overall, I of course hope that my worries are wrong.
A dog that doesn’t understand another dog’s body language or signals, a dog that doesn’t know how to play, a dog that is under-socialised, is, a dangerous dog!
I hope all owners have or now will, prepare their puppies/dogs for the real world.
Think about what will change in your dog’s life, and what you can do now, to prepare them for this.