What Is a COVID Puppy?

We have started to see some of our patients that we first saw during the beginning of COVID-19. As the pandemic has carried on and on, we have noticed that quite a few of the puppies that we saw at the start of the pandemic are a little more skittish, a little more nervous, and a little more rambunctious. It has become obvious that there are some things that they needed but we were not able to give them: routine socialization and exposure to different experiences. This makes sense because we are socially distancing, hence, so are they.

What does social distancing have to do with this?

Appropriate socialization in the first few months of life is critical for the healthy social development of dogs. Proper exposure to new places and people can reduce the incidence of fear-based behavior problems later in the dog’s life. Your puppy must encounter a wide range of people, pets, and situations to build their confidence in the world around them. Studies have linked aggression and fearfulness in adult dogs with inadequate socialization. Puppies that are not exposed to different situations positively are at risk of becoming fearful of new situations.

THINGS TO WORK ON WITH YOUR DOGS

Exposure to different and situations

  • In a non-fearful manner, expose your puppy to all people, places, objects, and animals that you want them to be comfortable with later. Remember that it is not enough to have neutral interactions when socializing your puppy to new things. The interaction should be incredibly positive, so you should carry treats with you wherever you go to reinforce that the child, bearded man, a person with a hat, vacuum cleaner, etc., is a beautiful thing, and good things happen when they are around. Use a happy tone of voice to distract them. Another thing to work on is MASKS! Many puppies don’t see people wearing masks in the home and are frightened when they see people in masks outside. Wear masks in front of your puppy so that he knows that the masked creatures they see outside are humans.

Puppy classes

  • We encourage you to enroll your puppy in basic obedience training classes. A well-run (socially distanced) puppy class should give your pup the exposure to strangers that they need. If your puppy is showing a lot of fear, you might need private training with a trainer that is experienced with helping fearful dogs gain confidence. For training, we recommend The Fundamental Dog or Miss Daisy’s Dog Camp.

Fun visits

  • Fun visits are when you come in just to have us feed treats and love on your puppy. Having treats on hand can help you create a positive experience for your puppy. Bring something delicious with you for us to feed her. This interaction can go a long way in creating positive experiences and teach your puppy not to associate fear with the veterinary clinic.

Interactions with other dogs

  • Friendly interactions with other dogs during this time are also critical. Avoid uncontrolled situations like dog parks and the beach. Set up playdates with friendly and vaccinated adult dogs and puppies that are already in your social circle.

Regular exercise

  • For dogs, walks are both physical and mental exercise, entertainment, and stress relief. Give your puppy a chance to sniff thoroughly; that’s an important part of being a dog. Dogs who are not allowed to sniff and explore can become frustrated and hyper/reactive during walks.

DOs and DON'Ts

DO remember that all puppies and adult dogs need to be adequately vaccinated in any social situation or if they will be in places that other dogs visit.

DON’T go too fast. You can make your puppy’s fear worse by exposing them to too much too quickly.

DON'T force them. If you know that your puppy is afraid of a particular situation, avoid it. Contact your vet or trainer for advice on how to desensitize your puppy in this situation.

DO try Adaptil pheromone collars, they can ease the socialization process.