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Easing your dog out of lockdown

Lockdown has been a strange old time, hasn’t it? At precisely the moment when we’d normally be getting out and about and enjoying the gorgeous spring weather, we’ve been massively restricted in the places we can go and the people we can see.

The lockdown has been stressful for people, for sure. But it’s also been stressful for our furry friends.

They haven’t had the opportunity to go for as many walks as normal, to roam free or to meet up with their doggy pals. For several weeks, we haven’t been able to drive to our favourite places for walks, so our pooches have probably been missing their strolls by the seaside and woodland treks too.

Freedom at last

Now we’re emerging blinking into the midsummer landscape, many of the travel limitations have been lifted and we have more freedom to meet up with other people. You may also be venturing back into the workplace after three months of spending every day at home with your four-pawed best friend.

So what does this mean for you and your dog?

Socialising your puppy

Beagle puppy on a  lead

The lockdown has special implications if you brought a puppy home around the time that restrictions came into place.

As pet parents are well aware, you have a very short window of opportunity to socialise your puppy: between the ages of 3 and 14 weeks. This is when you need to introduce your puppy to other dogs and other people so they learn how to behave.

At this age, they are likely to have no fear and are happy to meet new friends and have new experiences. If they skip this vital socialisation stage, you may end up with an anxious pup on your hands in future.

Best paw forward

At home, you can help your puppy learn how to socialise by:

  • Getting them used to being handled by different people within your household.
  • Gradually exposing them to potentially scary sounds such as hairdryers or vacuum cleaners, at a low volume at first. One option is to find different sounds online and play them to your pup on your phone or computer.
  • Encouraging them to walk on different surfaces outside, such as grass and concrete and, where possible, stairs.
  • Exposing them to different smells. For example, put a drop of an essential oil such as lavender on your dog’s favourite toy, hide the toy and reward your pup when they find it.
  • Showing them different things that they might initially find surprising or frightening, such as hats, umbrellas or balloons. Take care not to scare your puppy, but gradually help them to understand that unexpected objects don’t pose a threat to them.

Playing catch up outside

If your puppy has only just been vaccinated, you’ll be playing catch up when it comes to introducing your dog to the wider world. Maybe they haven’t yet had a chance to meet up with any other pups or older dogs, let alone encounter people outside the family or visit new places.

Here are a few ways you can help make this transition easier.

  1. Put them on the lead at home. Let your dog get used to being on the lead during a few gentle walks around the garden.
  2. Socialise with friends at first. Following the current social distancing rules, meet up with friends who have dogs, either at your house or at theirs. That way you can introduce the dogs to each other in safe, neutral territory.
  3. Step out into your local area. A good first outing might be to your local pet shop, where your puppy can sniff out delicious treats and be rewarded for good behaviour afterwards.
  4. Take it slow. Puppies’ joints can be damaged by too much walking too soon, so don’t overdo it in the early months.
  5. Think safety first. People, especially children, are irresistibly drawn towards puppies. But while the virus is still in circulation, it’s wise not to let other people pet your pup.

As with all kinds of training, short and sweet is best. Make sure your pup is happy throughout and reward them for good behaviour.

Getting back to normal

You might be breathing a sigh of relief that life is getting back to normal, but spare a thought for your new pup or faithful old friend. They’ve had the absolute joy of having you by their side 24/7 for the past three months. For most dogs, this is their idea of heaven.

Now you’re going out again, leaving the house and, in the case of the puppy, possibly leaving them alone for the first time.

What can you do to ease them into the new regime?

Puppy lying down looking alert

  1. Shift towards the new routine. If your dog-walking routine has been shaken up during lockdown, start moving it back to how it was before. And if you know your puppy’s going to be walked at a specific time once you’re back at work, start taking them out at that time.
  2. Take a step back. We know it’s hard not to want to make the most of every minute with your dog, but if they’re going to be alone for some of the day, it’s kinder to decrease the time you’re spending with them now. Either put them in a different room for a short while or ask them to stay in their bed.
  3. Leave your dog alone for short periods. Both puppies and older dogs can become distressed when they’re left alone. Try gradually leaving your dog alone, just for 15 minutes at first, to help them acclimatise. Read our tips on separation anxiety here and watch our video with Dr Emily Blackwell. If this continues to be a problem, seek help from your vet or an animal behaviourist.

Brighter days ahead

Here’s looking at better days to come, as we enjoy the rest of the summer with our canine best friends. As always, if you’d like advice on any of our products, such as YuMOVE for stiff joints or YuCALM for anxiety, please get in touch with our friendly customer team. You can reach us on 01462 416866 or at hello@yumove.com.

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