Since March 2020, our world has been transformed in numerous ways. Some people reading this may have experienced profound changes in their lives due to Covid, while others less so. Regardless, everyone has been impacted by lockdowns and social distancing requirements.
Believe it or not, some of the trends stimulated by Covid have proved to be positive. As millions of people spent more time at home, pet adoptions increased. Additional adoptions are a bright spot since more pets find forever homes. According to a Washington Post article of January 2021, “Some rescues have seen pet adoptions increase 30-40% over 2019.”
Adopting pets during the pandemic has led to many questions for new pet parents. Some of the popular questions include; how does one go about socializing a dog during a pandemic and how important is socialization?
How important is socialization?
Socialization is essential for all dogs. They are social beings, and most thrive with social contact. Is it as critical for older dogs who are already comfortable with human beings to be around many people during these difficult times? No, although some contact is beneficial. The real need for socialization is with puppies, particularly those between 8-16 weeks of age. During this period, a puppy can most easily learn to be comfortable around people. Pet parents with dogs of this age need to be mindful of this and do everything they can to positively introduce their new dogs to various people and circumstances safely and reasonably.
How do you socialize your dog during a pandemic?
The answer is positively and carefully in a variety of situations. Some pet parents use the term socialization to mean that their pets feel comfortable with people, other dogs and with a variety of things they are likely to experience in their environments. In other words, to be at ease in the world they live in. Some of this can be accomplished without any additional people at all. For example, start by getting your dog used to walking on different surfaces, everything from tile, carpet, wood, gravel, cement, grass, etc. When introducing a puppy to various surfaces, be sure to praise and give super special treats to them while they are exploring. The key is positive associations. The more positive experiences your puppy has when coming into contact with new things (including people), the more confident he/she is likely to be around them. Aside from surfaces, get your dog used to hearing and making positive connections to everyday things around the house. This can include TV, radio, vacuum cleaners, garbage disposals, etc. Praising and rewarding your puppy around these noises is something I highly recommend. One word of caution. Louder and more intense isn’t better. Whenever you can control the volume of sounds the dog is exposed to, start low and gradually increase volume as the dog gets comfortable with the sounds.