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"COVID Puppies and Dogs"

"COVID Puppies and Dogs"

by Beth Ostrowski-Parks, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

Should I worry about my “Covid puppy”
Let me help you relax a little… 

Yes, 2020 was a unique year on so many levels.  Our country and the world will be feeling the backlash of COVID for a very long time for sure.
Where people typically worry about COVID affecting the dogs bought or rescued during the pandemic is:
•    Those dogs may not have been socialized well in the community
•    Those dogs may not have been able to meet as many people as they would if not in shutdown
•    Those dogs may not have been able to attend live dog training classes
•    You may have spent more time with the puppy or dog then you would normally have been able to in 2020.  Heading back to work is another worry and potentially a whole different newsletter topic.
So what can you do about your “COVID” puppy now?  

Socialization windows of time in your puppy’s brain do close at specific times in his life.  There is one social window that closes at 12 weeks (which is why it’s so important to do everything you can including taking a group class before you’re your puppy is 12 weeks old),  However, that doesn’t mean that your puppy can’t still get out now and improve on his social skills.   

It’s so important that you try to stop potentially limiting what your puppy or dog can learn by saying “he is a COVID puppy”.
What that statement says is:  "This is as good as my dog is going to get”.    This is not true.   Improvements (and big ones at that) can still be made!  Don’t limit your dog’s potential.  He is counting on you. YOU are his lifeline to the world.

In my opinion, I believe that on some level, dogs acquired during COVID have been better trained to handle the distraction of other dogs because during shutdown they couldn’t just go and play with every dog they met.

It’s so helpful if dogs learn that they CANNOT go and play with every dog they see.  So I feel like this actually helped dogs from a training standpoint.  Your dog was able to recognize YOU as the provider of all good things!

Here are some things you can do now to help better socialize your puppy or dog:
•    Consider signing up for a dog training class that stresses safety and keeps your dog from getting over-stimulated by the sight of dogs or other people.
•    Every time you take your dog out for a walk or go on a field trip, bring LOTS of awesome treats.  
•    If your dog is afraid of humans, don’t let people insist on petting your dog.  Watch your dog's body language.  Does he look like he wants to be pet?  Or is your dog really over-reacting to this person in anywa way, even happiness?  Use your gut.  If you feel you can reason with someone that is asking, tell that person that your dog is a little shy so you don’t want him to be touched by people right now.  If your gut tells you this person will behave appropriately, ask him if he wants to give your dog some treats or better yet, just have the person toss some treats.
•    Regularly visit any store that allows well-behaved dogs on a leash.  There are many stores in my area like Home Depot, Lowes and even Tractor Supply that allow dogs.  In fact, they seem to welcome them.  People working in retail are stressed out too!  I know when I visit with my puppy Batman, people LOVE to meet him.  You can also take your puppy to pet supply stores.  Your goal is not necessarily for him to interact with anyone,  just not be frightened or over-stimulated by dogs and/or people.

So please don’t stress about your dog being a “COVID” dog.   There is NOTHING we could have done about that during our country’s shutdown, but it is not the end of the world for your dog unless you make it so.

If you are having a problem with your dog beyond what a group class can do for him, please call me or visit this page to learn more about working with me one on one.
I meet with locals in-person here at my training center, but I can also meet on Zoom.   I look forward to hearing more from you.