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The COVID Puppy – social skills

Blogs for your dogs by Heel Sit and Stay!

Have you welcomed a new puppy to your life in the last couple of years?

Have you been in lockdown and unable to 'socialise your puppy'?

If you have answered yes to the above questions, then today’s blog I am going to discuss puppy social skills and give you some practical and useful training to help your puppy.

I have found in my older dog classes or private lessons lately, they are a lot of pups that have missed their socialisation window and are reactive / defensive around other dogs and people.

Did you know the best time to ‘set your dog up for success’ is in the first 16 weeks of their little lives?

The first 4 months is crucial in their development, socialising (controlled – not at dog park/beach or with unsocialised older dogs), exposure to the big wide world in a positive way, and setting rules and boundaries. If our puppies miss out on this window or they have been attacked or had incorrect socialisation they can display behaviours including:

· Excessive barking and lunging at other dogs

· Baring teeth and biting dogs that get to close

· Going onto their back in a submissive posture when they meet dogs and people

· Wetting themselves when meeting dogs and humans

· Anxiety – hiding behind owners’ legs, shaking, tail tucked under, no eye contact

Interestingly, the human reactions to both displays can add to the issue!

Do any of these behaviours sound familiar? Are there some different behaviours you have noticed?

So, what do you do if this rings true?

· Patience and understanding

· Controlled situations and;

· Time

Firstly, patience and understanding. I find a lot of pups that appear ‘aggressive’ are fearful or confused. They are unable to read other dogs body language, or they haven’t seen a person wearing a mask /hat / sunglasses. They might have only played with one other similar dog and haven’t seen a dog without a tail or a large/small dog. Or never met a child or large male adult etc, before.

Secondly, you will need to set up some situations to help your puppy learn about the world. This is not a time to throw your pup into the middle of the pack or take them to Eumundi markets to immerse them in the world – how overwhelming would that be??

Find some locations that are controlled, and owners are understanding. On lead dog areas, quiet towns or streets, river / beach walks or a good dog training school that can help with controlled introductions and desensitisation.

Off lead beaches and Dog parks are not my recommendation at this stage as you can’t be sure the dogs are social, or the owners have enough control to call their dog away. We need our pups to have some positive experiences near and around other dogs without feeling overwhelmed – to build up their confidence or trust.

Thirdly, Time – this is not a process you can rush; your pup has a view of the world, dogs and people and if we want to change this perspective it takes time. You may need to do 100 training sessions, or you made need to do 10, all pups and dogs are different.

I mentioned before that the human reaction can add to the issues. Why? Well, you are the person they are looking to for instruction, guidance. They are watching your reactions to situations. You need to remain calm when nearing dogs, if your pup looks to be getting fearful, ‘aggressive’, reactive, the best thing to do is to calmly walk them away, just enough to get engagement back to you and then continue. Give feedback when they are doing the right thing!

If you are about to get a pup or have recently welcomed one, my strongest advice is to enrol in Puppy School. There are a lot of trainers and Pet Shops that offer Puppy School but please do your research. Puppy School should not (in my opinion) be about selling you food or toys it should include proper socialisation (on and off lead in a controlled manner), discussion on behaviours and training basic commands. Set your pup up right from the beginning and it will be the best investment you make.

My Puppy Preschool can be booked by clicking this link…

Need more help or have questions? Would love to hear from you. If you have a topic you would like me to chat about send me message.

Next Blog - Separation Anxiety…

Bow wow for now, Belinda

Belinda Marinus

Head Dog Trainer

Heel Sit and Stay! Dog Obedience

Author of “My Life as Your Dog”

Creator of “Happy not Yappy Dogs”

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