How to socialise a cocker spaniel puppy during coronavirus pandemic

Exactly a week ago I shared my thoughts about getting a puppy during coronavirus pandemic and a few valid reasons why this decision shouldn’t be taking lightly. The post was written before we were told to go into lockdown.

Next day I saw people driving off to view or collect puppies. If it wasn’t enough to make the hair on my head move, I also read about breeders posting young and unvaccinated puppies to their new owners using courier services.

After the initial shock, which as you can see, took a few days, I managed to compose myself and decided to write a few notes for the new puppy parents to help them out with the socialising part of the puppyhood.

Because “it’s going to be hard” is not even going to cut it.

It is going to be tough. Very tough. And it is likely to affect a dog’s psychology and outlook long-term, too. If you chose to bring home a young puppy during pandemic, be prepared to learn as much as you possibly can  now – and get used to the idea of possibly investing in a dog behaviourist in the future.

In my book, Perfect cocker spaniel, I outlined the monthly plan for raising a happy and healthy dog. It covers your daily activities, training, feeding, grooming and socialising. It will help you to get through this period.

However, the strict rules of the lockdown mean that a puppy will not be able to have his walks, meet other dogs or even have his vaccinations in time. It means that the vital period of socialising and brain and habit development will be affected no matter what you do.

On a positive side, there are options to make it less problematic long-term if you are ready to dedicate a chunk of your time to the puppy.

Take the puppy to your garden often. Let him walk around, sniff and explore. Use my tips on puppy-proofing the garden and make sure to learn about spring plants that are toxic to dogs. If you live in a flat, your balcony will have to be “the garden” or “outdoor space”. You need to make it secure, and then add a few things that a pup will find interesting such a safe plant, an area covered with gravel (which you will need to wash in hot water and soap first), possibly a grass patch in a box (which you can grow from scratch or buy from a safe source).

Create a play area in your house. This should be spacious and have plenty of different safe objects and toys. Cardboard boxes, empty water bottles, balls, soft and rubber toys are all great.

Dress in different types of clothes, so the puppy can learn that some people wear sunglasses, others can be in hats or gloves and so on.

Get the puppy used to household and life sounds. You can introduce him to the washing machine, hoover, tv, radio, door bell, phone etc. The street sounds including cars, bikes, alarms etc. can be recoded on your phone and played back. There are also plenty of good sound tracks on youtube including this one.

Let the puppy sit in your car with the engine off – and on, so he is prepared for travels when the time is right.

Teach the puppy basic training to build his confidence and skills. Start with these 5 things to teach a puppy as a base.

Introduce the pup to the grooming & vet examination routines through play, when you gently handle and touch him all over focusing on paws, muzzle, teeth and under his tail. You will also need to clip his dew claws and possibly even all nails if he is to stay house-bound for a while.

If your puppy is fully vaccinated and microchipped, you live in a rural area or have an access to a secure field that is not accessed by other people, wait for a few weeks for the situation to improve and then take the puppy out for short walks. Remember that a puppy should not be carried – he needs to walk on his own initiative and only as long as he feels comfortable and happy.

Image credit: Fred photographed by me

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