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Having a Puppy during a Pandemic

Having a Puppy during a Pandemic

He’s growing! Physically so much bigger already at twelve weeks old–but that’s the idea, right? Sterling is a Giant Schnauzer. It’s in the name. His dad is one hundred pounds. We’re almost at thirty. On track.

Emotionally he is still a tiny baby. Clueless. He’s learned all sorts of words and hand signals, but no way has he had enough practice at them to deliver under many circumstances. Which means there is still quite a bit of chaos at our house at the moment. Unless he is sleeping–and babies sleep a lot.

But when there is a pandemic going on, how do you socialize a puppy during his most crucial period for that?? All of us with puppies are struggling right now. Sterling and I were lucky because we had a solid two weeks together before the world went sideways. People came over to see him; he rode in carts in stores to meet people safely; he had a very nice first vet visit; he played with a Lab pup friend. But suddenly all that great, positive interaction had to come to a grinding halt.

What to do? What to do? No puppy class as planned! No visiting with the puppies in the weekly puppy class I usually teach! No more humans coming over! The best socialization happens before twelve weeks old–and we can stretch that to sixteen weeks–when pups are usually pretty open to All New Things. At sixteen weeks Sterling will still have to be in isolation mode with the rest of us.

So. We are doing everything else we can. He is now able to walk outside, so we can see people from a distance, and he can wag his tail in an inviting, happy way, and I can reinforce that with a reward. He can meet dogs outside because they can’t transmit Covid-19 to one another. For the first time in my life, I’m happy when a nice dog comes over to us off-leash because that dog isn’t attached to a person, and the dogs can say hello. My other small dogs are quite sick of Sterling’s pushy nudges to play, so I’ve also invited clients’ puppies to come play in my yard with no other humans so we stay safe.

We are going to new locations all the time so he is always flexible about his surroundings. His feet have touched a variety of surfaces. He is completely comfortable in the car now. He has seen kids through a fence–a couple at a time, which is best with kids and most young pups anyhow, since children seem to make scary noises and sudden movements. We are working on noise desensitization: the sounds of fireworks are no big deal now. We are working on all sorts of obedience cues until they are solid. He is getting used to being crated at home without a human there sometimes.

When we finally, finally have the all-clear, Sterling will meet lots and lots of people and play with dogs his size. I want him to be a perfect Canine Good Citizen, but certainly it is a challenge. In the meantime we are lucky that we are spending so much time together. That’s a real gift.

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