You’re trapped indoors. Either working from home, or temporarily not working at all.
You have no obligations outside the house.
You are, in effect, trapped.
And you can remember that the last time you got a puppy, this was similar to how you felt.
So, does that mean now is a good time to get a puppy?
Puppies vs isolation
I have been increasingly concerned in the past few days to see multiple newspapers publishing articles suggesting that now is a good time to get a puppy.
How much easier potty training will be, and how much time you will have to lavish attention on them.
And whilst it is true that there are some practicalities of raising a puppy that are easier without outside commitments, there is one that is not easier.
And it’s an incredibly important one.
If you are very lucky your puppy will have such friendly genetics that they could be raised in an underground fallout bunker, yet still greet the survivors with a wagging tail when they open it up post-apocalypse.
But most puppies need at least some work to help them understand that strangers are not to be feared.
Even with great genetics, if you are raised in a one family world you are going to be at best confused and at worst terrified when society opens up again.
Normal socialization practices
We recommend that from the day after your 8 week old puppy comes home you start getting out and about with them in your arms.
Acclimatizing them to the sights and sounds of traffic. Being carried along busy streets, amongst various people.
Having numerous visitors to the house to let the pup know that everyone you invite in is a welcome guest, not a scary stranger.
Window of opportunity
Puppies have a small time period in which it’s easy for them to learn to accept new things, sights, smells, people.
We call this the socialization window. And it’s open until they are just 14 weeks old.
There is no way of knowing when our world is going to stop being locked down, but it very feasibly could last as much as 6 months in total.
By the time the world comes back to us with all it’s usual hustle and bustle, puppies brought home now will be swiftly approaching adulthood.
What can you do?
We have been driving ourselves slightly crazy trying to work out the solution to this at Labrador HQ. (Or, to be more accurate, from our own homes while conference chatting).
And we’ve got to lay it on the table for you.
Anything we can offer would be like sticking a Mickey Mouse band aid onto your broken leg.
The smiley character might make you feel better temporarily, but it isn’t going to do any good.
So you have a choice to make.
You can go looking for a puppy now, and take your chances. Hope that they are of sound enough temperament to cope with the change, that will almost certainly arrive after they are 14 weeks old and the socialization window is closed.
Or wait for normality, in whatever form it takes, to resume. And give your puppy the best chance of growing into a confident family dog.
Socializing an older dog
If you have already brought your puppy home, know that it is possible to socialize an older dog.
But the process takes longer, and requires a lot more dedication and baby steps as you take that journey together.
Social distancing and socialization
Some of those band aid solutions we came up with are worth trying if your already adored pup has come home in the past couple of weeks.
But only if your region is engaging in social distancing measures rather than full lockdown.
Check your local government’s website to ensure that you comply with their measures before following the ideas below:
- Sit 2m away from a path, with your pup on your knee, and watch people come past.
- Sit on your doorstep and people watch (only if you have a front yard at least 2m from the sidewalk).
- Use a noise and sounds CD with traffic noises, fireworks, loud groups of people – or find videos of these noises online.
We have never been in a situation like the one the world is in right now, so we don’t know whether these ideas will succeed.
But if you can follow them and still comply with the distancing guidelines of your local authority we think they are probably worth a try.
The right time
A puppy is a joyous thing and we believe that if you can wait to bring one home until a time that they can be socialized properly, you will get years of benefits from making the most of that small window of opportunity.
Stay safe, and we all hope that things will be back to normal before we know it.
Have you recently brought home a new puppy?
Visit our forum to chat with other pet parents raising a new puppy at this challenging time, and swap notes.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website