Author: Rosie Bescoby and Caroline Clark Clinical Animal Behaviourist
The lockdown conditions imposed to protect us from the coronavirus have led to a vast change in our routine. Face-to-face puppy classes may not be possible and new owners restricted in what they can do with their bundles of fun, but socialisation is about quality, not quantity. The Vetoquinol team have partnered with Clinical Animal Behaviourists, Rosie Bescoby and Caroline Clark to provide you with some tips to make the most of this time and show you how you can help your puppy during lockdown:
Carry your puppy in your arms on your daily exercise walks, or use a carry crate or bag (get them accustomed to this at home first). If you’re unable to leave the house, take your puppy to an open window, front door or garden gate so they can be familiarised with the outside world. It is important to pair what they are seeing with a treat so that they form positive associations.
Touch your puppy gently and very briefly on their paws, ears, mouth and around the eyes, providing praise as you do and a treat immediately after. Your puppy should associate touch with positive things happening and stay calm as you do it.
Now is the time to introduce different sounds from the safety of the house, at a low volume initially.
You want your puppy to notice the noises but to carry on with what they were doing. As well as ordinary household items, recordings of sound effects can be used too.
For example, vacuum cleaners and hair-dryers can be started in another room to muffle the sound to begin with. You want your puppy to notice the noises but to carry on with what they were doing.
Recordings of sound effects can be used too, especially for noises that are seldom heard or only at certain times of the year, like fireworks. This is called sound desensitisation – click here to find out more
Think about all the things your puppy might encounter throughout its life, e.g. umbrellas, walking sticks, bicycles, people in hats, with beards, sun glasses, high visibility clothing, ironing boards etc.
Leave the objects around the house to begin with. You want your puppy to accept them as being a normal part of its environment. Work towards letting them see them being used or worn.
Let your puppy get used to feeling different textures beneath its feet.
Include different floor surfaces such as tiles or laminate, tarpaulin, bubble-wrap, prickly door mats etc. Gravel and water can also be introduced.
Introduce your puppy to the car so that they are happy spending time in there with the engine turned off to start with. Decide how you want to travel your puppy safely (in a crate, in the boot or using a seatbelt harness) and start off by feeding your puppy their meals in the car. When they are happy to get into the car, you can repeat with the engine running.
This is a great time to teach your puppy that someone approaching them when they have something they value (whether it’s their own food, a chew or a stolen item) leads to something pleasant being given to them, rather than something nice being taken away.
Approach your puppy, drop a piece of food next to them, and retreat. Repeat until your puppy looks up happily as you approach. If you need to take the item off them, always do a swap this will prevent problems such as running off with items or guarding items they value.
It’s important that your puppy is not are prepared for being left alone at this time where they have company most, or all, of the time. Use baby-gates so that your puppy cannot continually follow you. Provide a cosy area where your puppy has access to a self-reinforcing activity such as food dispensing toys or chews. When they are sleepy or otherwise occupied, spend some time the other side of a barrier, returning if your puppy expresses any concern about being
separated. Gradually build up the length of time they are left alone.
Life can be stressful for pets
Zylkene is a calming supplement that contains a natural ingredient derived from a protein in milk called casein that has clinically proven calming properties to help relax cats and dogs. It is a peptide (protein) molecule, well-known to promote the relaxation of new-borns after breastfeeding.
Zylkene has become a valuable support for veterinary surgeons, behaviourists, nurses and pet owners for use in helping pets cope when facing unusual and unpredictable situations or before occasions such as a change in their normal environment.