With Stay at Home orders in place, many people are buying or adopting pets. Shelters across the country are reporting record adoption numbers; however many pet professionals are concerned about the fate of these pets after life returns to “normal.”
Being forced to spend the majority of our time at home provides a great opportunity to dedicate resources to a new pet, but it also provides complications. New dog owners especially now face the important task of early socialization and training while being unable to partake in group classes. Additionally, when pet owners are allowed to return to the workplace, their new furry family members will be forced to contend with time alone, which can lead to serious behavior problems.
Early Socialization ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
When dogs and cats are very young, they go through a behavioral stage called the “critical socialization period.” This time (between birth and 12 weeks for cats, and birth and 16 weeks for dogs) is when their minds are the most open to new experiences. A broad range of positive experiences during this time can help your pet become a confident, outgoing adult. Lack of experience or negative experiences can lead to fear, reactivity and shyness.
Traditionally, trainers and veterinarians recommend that puppies be enrolled in socialization classes, designed to help young puppies grow confident. Shelter in Place orders unfortunately make this impossible. Luckily, many trainers and behaviorists agree that owners can do a lot in their own homes to get a pet ready to face the world.
*Please note that puppies and kittens before 16 weeks are not fully vaccinated. Socialization classes are designed with this in mind. If socializing at home, please keep your pet’s exposure in mind.
We encourage our new pet owners to take advantage of virtual training classes offer by some trainers. The San Diego Humane Society has several online options, including a FREE seminar called “Puppy Socialization in Isolation!”
The following links also offer excellent information on how to socialize your pet while physically distancing:
Psychology Today: Puppy or Rescue Dog Socialization During COVID-19 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/decoding-your-pet/202004/puppy-or-rescue-dog-socialization-during-covid-19
AKC: How To Socialize Your Puppy While Social Distancing: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/socialize-puppy-times-social-distancing/
Separation Anxiety -----------------------------------------------------
An important part of bringing up a new pet is to teach them how to be alone. It may be hard to believe, but ignoring your pet a little each day can be as critical as the time and attention you give them.
Dogs, being inherently social animals, are especially prone to a behavioral condition known as Separation Anxiety. This stressful and dangerous condition leads to dogs who are panicky, stressed, and very often destructive when left alone. It can lead to property damage or even worse, damage to the pet.
With so many people now spending most of their time at home, it is crucial that owners make a conscious effort to give their pet “alone time.” Crate training, while being an excellent way to fast-track potty training, also provides the pet with time alone. A puppy should learn to spend positive time inside their crate even when the owner is home. If trained properly, many dogs learn to like their crate and will even voluntarily seek alone time there.
Crate Training Basics: https://apdt.com/resource-center/crate-training/
Ultimately, the best way to deal with separation anxiety is to prevent it early on. Training, encouraging “calm behavior,” and not indulging attention-seeking annoyance behaviors are other additional tricks to help prevent Separation Anxiety. If you see destructive or anxious behaviors developing in your growing dog, seek the help of a behaviorist early on.
Preventing Separation Anxiety in Puppies: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/puppy-separation-anxiety/
Finally, we strongly encourage new dog owners to take advantage of the following free 30 minute seminar put on by one of the foremost trainers for Separation Anxiety:
Separation Anxiety during COVID-19: https://www.dog-ibox.com/market/catalog/separation-anxiety-concerns-during-covid-19.html?___store=en&___from_store=de
We strongly encourage all owners to consider life after COVID. Make sure you are teaching your puppy behaviors and manners now that will benefit them when our lives go back to normal.
We are excited to see so many new adorable faces in our practice! We wish each of these new pups a long, healthy, happy life. As always, we are thrilled to be entrusted with their care!