Socializing your puppy during a pandemic

If you thought managing your social media account was hard, I’ve got a new one for you. Did you know that your new puppy should meet 100 new people before she’s 12 weeks old?

WHAT??

From 8-12 weeks old, your new family member is going through what is known as the “fear imprinting period.” This is where good, positive experiences are essential. Traumatic events or just moderately scary ones are remembered for life. Your puppy’s brain is soaking up every experience during this period, taking in and remembering it all, the good, bad, and ugly (hopefully not too many of these).

And while socializing right now for us is difficult, your puppy needs to meet as many individuals as possible right now. Ideally, your puppy should meet 100 different people by 12 weeks old. WOW!

It’s not as hard as you think – people will swarm your pup when you go out. As long as you’re outside, wearing a mask and socially distancing, it can be done (please note, when socializing with other puppies ~ which is essential, please consult with your vet if your puppy hasn’t completed her initial vaccine schedule as some puppies are higher risk than others). Your puppy will also meet many new faces at the vet, your neighborhood pet store, post office, and even the Amazon delivery person!

Now here’s the deal—socialization doesn’t mean just throwing your dog into the arms of new people. It means creating positive experiences with those people. For some puppies, it’s a no brainer. People = attention and happy, loving attention is great! For others, people can be really scary so those puppies need more distance and high value treats to associate with the presence of people. If people equal the presentation of good things, people become pretty great.

I am a firm believer your puppy can and should be able to be around kids. However, SAFETY FIRST! As much as your puppy may love people, kids are very often scary or can turn scary. They run, they scream, they get in the puppy’s face, they pull on ears, tails…and they are FAST! And, puppies like to nibble fingers, grab ponytails, and even take away a much-beloved toy. Redirect with treats, reinforce positive behavior, and be firm but kind….. if you can redirect with food, it’s a win-win!



And finally, your puppy needs to experience the world, so while today looks a lot different then the world did just last October, introduce her to different environments, different surfaces (dirt, sand, grass, sidewalks, roads, gravel, etc), cats, horses, cars, car rides, men, women, children, people with hats (something that never happened with Bailey and stresses him to this day), an elderly person with a cane, wheelchairs, bikes, and everything in between. And remember, pair the presence of these things either with lots of praise, play, or treats.

Every time.