How to Begin to Socialize a Dog That Was Adopted during COVID-19
Pandemic pups grew up in unprecedented times and may have missed out on normal early life experiences. As such, it’s not surprising that dogs adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic experience separation anxiety when away from their owners. Dogs adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic may also have an unusual fear of strangers and other dogs, which can lead to distress in new situations.
It’s important to reintroduce the world to your dog and re-socialize to avoid the behavioral problems that may occur due to being locked away.
First, What is Socialization?
Puppy socialization is a developmental stage where pups are introduced to the world around them at around 3 to 16 weeks of age, when they’re especially receptive to new stimuli. However, there isn’t much to worry about if your dog skipped this stage. There is no defined, one-size-fits-all path for socialization. In fact, socialization is a process that should continue throughout a dog’s life.
That said, dogs that aren’t properly socialized may experience unusual fear of new sights, sounds, smells, people, and environments. It’s crucial to start your dog’s socialization as soon as possible so they can live a normal and full life.
The New Normal: Pet Parenthood After the Pandemic
Here are some steps you can take to begin socializing your pandemic pup:
1. Start with short, positive experiences
It’s a good idea for socialization to take place within controlled settings. This way, you can control the stimuli your dog is exposed to. That doesn’t mean you have to restrict your dog to just playing catch in the yard. You can start by taking short walks to a nearby park early in the morning when the world is quieter. Bring your dog’s favorite treats and use positive reinforcement to enforce good behavior.
2. Have one-on-one doggie playdates
Meeting new dogs can be an overwhelming experience for dogs adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic that spent most of their time indoors. Avoid the dog park until your dog can adequately deal with new dogs and experiences. If your friend, neighbor, or a family member has a dog, invite them over for a doggie playdate. You can also ask your vet for contacts as they may know another dog owner in a similar position.
Starting with one-on-one playdates can help prevent negative experiences and open up your dog to new experiences.
3. Introduce your pup to lots of new people and places
Once your dog has started responding positively to new people and places, it’s time to scale up the number of interactions. While it’s important not to overwhelm them, your dog needs to be exposed to a variety of situations. Gradually increase the duration and complexity of outings, and be sure to keep a close eye on your dog’s behavior. Use more crowded routes while taking them to their favorite hangout place or park. Make sure to reward your dog with treats and praise after a positive interaction.
4. Gradually acclimate your dog to staying alone
If your dog has crippling separation anxiety, start by leaving them alone in a room for 5 to 10-minute intervals and gradually increase the duration of your absences. Learning to be alone is an important life skill. However, few dogs can stand prolonged periods of separation from their owners. This could intensify their anxiety and bring about other behavioral issues.
Get to know your pup’s personality. This way, you can figure out how best to socialize them and deal with their separation anxiety. Remember to remain patient; socialization can be a long process.