New Dogs in Quarantine
Stay-home orders have been a catalyst for pet adoptions. This is a great for all the homeless pets, but there are some challenges, especially for dog adopters. When getting a new dog, care needs to be taken to introduce the dog to the family, socialize the dog with other dogs and new situations, and train the dog. While the introduction to the family is easy during quarantine, the other needs pose some serious challenges. Additionally, adopters need to plan for changing their routine from a stay-home pattern to whatever the new normal becomes.
It is important to socialize a dog by introducing it to other dogs, different people, and new situations. When running puppy kindergarten classes, I would wear different hats, walk with crutches, ride a bike, and when possible, bring a wheelchair around the dogs. By introducing dogs to new situations, they learn about both that particular situation and new situations are nothing to fear.
During stay-home orders, this is tougher to do. Some people can barely leave their residence. Most puppy K and training classes are postponed. Will missing this opportunity cause long-term harm to the dog? It is unlikely, but there may be issues that require some attention later in the dog’s life. The dog may not adapt well to dog parks due to the lack of dog-to-dog socialization. The dog may be more frightened of new things and people.
Owners can help mitigate this by doing their own socialization. They can wear different hats on occasion. Maybe put on shiny bright jewelry some days. They can pull out a bike, scooter, or skateboard. Also, take the dog for a short ride so they get used to cars.
It might be worth asking a neighbor with a dog to walk together. The people can stay six or more feet apart while the dogs meet. (Remember a standard leash is six feet.) If you have a fenced in yard, maybe set up a play date. Be careful not to do this in a yard that either dog shows territorial behavior. If you are planning on having a dog walker later, it might be worth handing the leash to your neighbor and having them take your dog for a short walk. You can also hire the dog walker for a few visits now. They could use the business and it would help your dog adapt. Being walked by a non-family member can be stressful for some dogs so let them learn early in life that it is safe.
Many dogs behave very well at home and then ignore commands when there are distractions. One of the advantages of taking a training class is the distraction from other dogs and people in the class.
As with socialization, you can ask neighbors to be outside with their dogs or their kids while you are training. Social distancing is perfect for this. If the “distraction” comes closer than six feet, it becomes an introduction or approaching person. Except on busy city streets a person that comes within six feet of you is generally considered someone approaching you to start a conversation. Those socially distancing neighbors and the kids playing ball next door are perfect distractions for your dog training.
This is the area that concerns me the most. If most of the family is in the home most of the day or walking the dog, then the dog never experiences isolation. As the stay-home orders are lifted, humans will leave the home more and more. Many of the dogs raised during this time will experience separation anxiety.
It is important for the dog’s future health that they learn to function alone. The humans in the family should consider leaving together for a few minutes each day, even if they just sit in the garage, backyard, apartment hallway, a car, or even quietly in a bathroom. Before leaving the dog, give the dog a nice treat or toy they like. Make sure they are in a place where they cannot harm themselves or anything important in your home. Then leave to a place where the dog cannot see or hear you. Increase the time over the next few weeks.
As things shift back to the new normal, your time with the dog will be reduced. If you have prepared now with proper socialization, training, and time apart, your dog will be better prepared. The world of dog parks, pet sitters, and time alone will not be so scary for them.