How to socialise your puppy while social distancing

If you've recently got a puppy you might find the guidance you've seen around socialising it is difficult to follow during the coronavirus outbreak.

Luckily, there is still a lot you can still do under the current restrictions. We asked Vicky Carne, an experienced dog coach and owner of The Dog Coach, for her advice on how to socialise a young dog during a time of self-isolation and social distancing. Here's her video and guide to what you can do.

For more information and online courses to help train your puppy go to The Dog Coach Online.

Socialising a puppy involves introducing them to people, other dogs and getting them used to the sights, sounds and smells it will encounter in everyday life.

There's a window of around 16 weeks when a puppy is wired to try new things and get used to its surroundings. This is a great time to get a dog used to a range of experiences so it won't feel nervous.

The best way to do this during the Covid-19 lockdown is to simulate change and safely bring the outside world in as much as possible.

Focus on building your relationship with your puppy, their trust in you and their confidence in meeting things that are new and different. A confident, happy puppy will be far better prepared for the changes to come when life goes back to normal.

If they're nervous, a mix of games and treats combined with your praise and attention around potentially scary objects will help them. Let them get comfortable at their own pace.

See our latest guides to caring for pets during coronavirus.

Top tips for socialising a puppy

1. Bring the sounds of the outside world in - What sounds is your puppy likely to be exposed to once the quarantine is lifted? Traffic, trains, fireworks? Find videos online with these sounds or download an app and play these sounds to your puppy. Start by introducing these sounds quietly and gradually build them up so your pup can carry on eating, playing or sleeping and happily ignore them.

2. Home sounds - Help your puppy get used to the sounds of your vacuum cleaner, washing machine and other appliances you might use around the home.

3. Different surfaces - Get them used to walking on different surfaces. If you have wooden floors, slippery floors, carpets or grass around your home or garden, get them to walk over them or play games on them.

4. Different places - If you can go for a walk, try to go to different places to expose your puppy to as many different smells and environments. Having to keep a physical distance from other people when you're outside can be good practice for teaching your dog to not seek attention from every passer-by.

5. Take them for a drive if the rules allow it - If you live out of town and have to drive for your dog walk, try stopping the car briefly at various places on the way and observe new things with your puppy out of the window. If anyone approaches, keep your puppy calm by offering it food. This is handy for teaching your puppy to be comfortable in the car and not to start guarding it.

6. Throw a pretend fancy dress party - Dress up in strange outfits using glasses, hats, beards, wigs and anything you can repurpose. This will help your puppy become confident around people, whatever they look like.

7. Spend time in the garden, if you have one - Your puppy will be able to smell any humans, dogs or animals on the other side of your fence. Reward your puppy with games or treats for learning to happily ignore them.

8. Practice using a lead - Teach your pet to settle down calmly on a lead while you're chatting and having a drink. This will be good practice for when the lockdown is lifted and you can venture outside to see friends at cafes, pubs and restaurants. Do this in as many different places as possible - the front room, garden, etc.

Don't worry about what you can’t do, give your puppy the variety of experiences that are possible and focus on having fun while building your puppy's trust in you and confidence in meeting the world around them.