Puppy Socialization during Covid-19

puppy socialization during covid-19

By: Melissa Kolmar, CPDT-KA, SBA

The critical socialization window for puppies occurs roughly between three and 16 weeks of age. Puppies in this phase of development are like sponges soaking up information about the world and learning what is and isn’t safe. What does this mean for puppies in this stage during Covid-19? How do we socialize while being responsible and practicing social distancing? Here are some tips!


Socialization isn’t just about other dogs and people

It’s important to remember that socialization includes common experiences that your dog will have throughout their life. This includes handling at the vet/groomer, getting their nails trimmed, the sound of thunderstorms or the vacuum, and different kinds of surfaces they’ll need to walk on (like tile, asphalt, sand, wet grass). Luckily, you can practice these things from the comfort of your own home/yard. Practice handling your puppy (go slow and pair with treats), play a YouTube video of thunderstorms while pairing with treats as well as pairing treats with walking over different surfaces.

Socialize to different types of people (Hint: You get to have costume changes!)

Even though your puppy can’t meet lots of different people right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t expose them to different types of clothing or various ways people move. You or a family member can dress up! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Wearing a hat or sunglasses (or both at the same time!)
  • Walking with a cane or walker
  • Wigs of different hair colors and styles (or wear your own hair in different styles)
  • Delivery person carrying a box or package (you may be seeing a lot of that these days)
  • Wear up in rain or winter gear (rubber boots, umbrella, jacket with hood up, etc)
  • Have you or a family member ride a bicycle, scooter, or skateboard wearing a helmet
  • Carrying lots of grocery bags
  • Wheeling around a suitcase
  • Wearing halloween costumes

Schedule Dog Training Sessions with New Dawn

We are considered an essential business and are open for 30 minute and 60 minute private sessions! You, your puppy and your trainer will be the only people at our center. Our training room easily accommodates over a six-foot distance and we disinfect and sanitize all surfaces after each session.

We can help you navigate this critical period with your puppy, as well as teach important behaviors such as coming when called, walking on a leash, four feet on the floor when greeting and leave it. You can register for a session here: https://newdawnabc.com/private-sessions/

Socialize from a distance

Getting outside is important, not just for your mental health, but also for your puppy to experience the great outdoors. Any time your puppy notices something new, like a loud truck driving by, a dog walking across the street, or your neighbor walking down the street, praise calmly and give them a treat. It’s all about creating positive associations with new and different things. This doesn’t require any actual interaction, just their presence in the distance.

Provide lots of mental enrichment

Mental enrichment for your puppy is even more important now that we’re spending more time at home. Encourage your puppy to explore new dog food puzzles. Start with easy puzzles and interactive toys so your puppy is successful and doesn’t give up. Slowly increase the difficulty of their puzzle as they get the hang of problem solving. Frustration is part of the game — you want your puppy to learn some frustration tolerance, but not get so frustrated that they give up! Give them a helping hand if they need it and always praise them for their efforts.

Just because we have to practice social distancing during this Covid-19 pandemic doesn’t mean that your puppy won’t grow up to be a confident adult. You can still socialize them…it just calls for being a little creative. You can do it!