Are you locked inside your house with your new puppy who is bouncing off the wall? Are you hunkered down with your adult dog, who needs training, but you never had the time?
It may seem like the middle of a coronavirus crisis is not the time to take your pup out to socialize or enroll in a group training class; staying 6 feet away from people would be tough.
But there are ways you can be social while keeping your distance.
If you just got a puppy, experts say socializing them properly with new people and dogs is vital to their development, especially when they are under 16-weeks-old.
“While in an ideal world your puppy would meet many, kind, tolerant adult dogs, and yes, certainly some new people along the way too, socialization just means exposing your puppy to all sorts of new things,” Jenny Wyffels, a certified professional dog trainer says.
But how do you do that while social distancing? To keep germs at bay, Jenny suggests you can assume some multiple personalities, or get all the old (not scary) Halloween costumes out of your closet.
“Wearing different perfumes and colognes along with new, unusual, or interesting attire can help puppies learn from a young age that humans don’t all look and smell the same, and that is OK,” she says.
Car rides can be an excellent way for your pup to see the world, and while you’re glued to the TV sheltering in place, try turning on different shows, so your puppy hears different sounds and voices.
You can also enlist the help of a pal who will keep their distance. “They could play a game of cookie toss with a friend or neighbor. A puppy seeing a stranger, even from across the street on a separate driveway, is beneficial. More so if they are getting treats,” Jenny recommends.
Use some of this extra time constructively and take virtual dog training classes.
Certified trainer Adrienne Liddle just launched purely positive online puppy group training classes. You and your pooch get the know-how, without the germs.
“Being quarantined can cause cabin fever for our dogs and us,” Adrienne says. “I want to offer something that’s not only educational but also a source of entertainment and community. My group classes are interactive, and people are meeting other dog lovers and connecting over dog training while getting help and guidance from me. I love it!”
Adrienne says sheltering in place is what sparked her to create these creative classes; she worried dogs would not get the training they need.
She’s offering online courses for adult dogs, too, because having a well-behaved dog makes everyone happier in the end. Especially now when pooches and their people are spending 24/7 together.
“When you teach a dog new things and reward them, they love spending time engaging with you,” she says. “When you help a dog through difficult things using clear criteria and communication, they learn to trust and believe in you. When you help a dog build problem-solving skills, they become more balanced and less reactive to their environment. I’ve seen some amazing change and growth in dogs and their humans through the training process.”
And Jenny recommends using some of this solitude to teach your dog a lifetime of good habits. “Some of us may temporarily have schedules that allow us to devote more time to consistent day to day training, or behavior modification plans. Why not make the most out of a challenging situation by devoting that time to our dogs?”
Both Jenny and Adrienne also offer individual training sessions remotely using Skype, Facetime, Zoom and video-conferencing programs to dog owners anywhere in the world. Contact them through their websites.
RedRover has created a COVID-19 resource list for pets owners who may need assistance or guidance during this crisis: https://redrover.org/news/coronavirus.