Dear Miss Behavin’: We are considering getting a puppy but realize the shelter-in-place orders may complicate things. How do we socialize a puppy when everybody is under quarantine?
You’re not alone in wanting to add a four legged family member to your home right now! You’re also correct that raising a puppy during a pandemic will be a little more complicated than it otherwise would. Socialization is obviously crucial—but what does socialization actually mean?
The idea of socializing your puppy is broad, but here is the gist: socialization is introducing your puppy to novel situations in a positive way that makes them feel safe and boosts their confidence. “Novel situations” include different types of surfaces (grass, gravel, carpet, tile, etc), new places, new people, objects (like the vacuum), and sounds to name a few.
Fortunately, a lot of this can be done at home, such as exposing the puppy to various surfaces, sounds and objects (like household appliances). The trickier part is introducing your pup to new people, places, and other dogs. Make sure that all human members of your household interact with and handle the puppy daily. If you have trusted close friends, family, or neighbors who you feel comfortable having pet the puppy, you can do so while remaining socially distant yourself simply by having your puppy on a six foot leash. If any of these people have friendly dogs, ask them if they are comfortable with a socially distant play date or walk. With both dogs on a six foot leash, you can keep plenty of distance, and you can either let the dogs play, or go for a nice parallel walk.
Another important consideration is that of crate training and separation preparation. Even though you may be home all day with plenty of time to snuggle your puppy, practice crate training not only to give her structure, but to start getting her used to being alone here and there. Without this step, puppy will be in for a big shock when school and work are back in session!